Rev. Geoff McKee’s Scripture for the Fifth Sunday of Easter (29 April 2018) is the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, from Acts of the Apostles (Acts 8:26-40). Geoff explains how the central message of this passage is not the “easy” one – about the Gospel spreading out to foreigners and foreign lands – but, instead, that the Good News of Christ is truly for everyone. And Christians must discard any partiality or prejudice in spreading that message.
Acts 8:26-40 (New International Version)
Philip and the Ethiopian
26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
36 As they travelled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptised?”  38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptised him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and travelled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.
The following open letter was published in the lead up to the Southern Baptist Convention in the USA in June 2014, when a motion would be proposed condemning transgender identity.
“Dear Southern Baptist Convention,
I know that you are considering passing a resolution against transgender identity this week at your meeting in Baltimore. In anticipation of this vote, I write to you as a fellow believer in our Lord Jesus Christ, the saviour of the world, the person to whom I have given my heart and soul and whom I spend my life serving.
I was raised Southern Baptist in Stanly County, North Carolina, in a devoted Christian family.
My dad grew up in Nigeria, the son of Southern Baptist missionaries who taught there. The theology and worship of my Southern Baptist church was a core part of my identity as a child, and in many ways, it continues to form the person I am today.
Growing up, I was desperate to be a good Christian and to earnestly give my life, my heart, and my soul to the Lord. I was also trans. I knew I was a girl from a very young age, even though the world saw me as a boy. It wasn’t easy. I fought against this. I fought with every tool I had. I prayed and I prayed and I begged.
I went through the act of being saved over and over, thinking each time that if I was perfectly contrite and sorrowful, Christ would save me from being trans, from being a girl.
When I was about 16, I was on a youth retreat up near Liberty University. My youth group was staying in cabins out in the woods. At one of the evening praise and worship times I fell down on the floor praying that God would fix me. My minister prayed over me. I hoped, I hoped incredibly hard that that would be the moment where I was fixed, but of course it wasn’t.
I couldn’t “fix” being trans because it’s how God created me.
Isn’t it the role of Christians to minister with those who are excluded and marginalised?
I ask you, as fellow believers, to join with us in the Episcopal Church and other traditions as family in standing with trans and gender non-nonconforming people rather than against us.
Don’t make the world harder for trans folks. Instead, let’s explore together the ways that our gender, in all its beautiful diversity, is a blessed gift from God.
Thank you for listening.
Your sister in Christ, Vivian Taylor”
In March this year, the Church of Scotland published a pastoral aid resource entitled: “Diverse Gender Identities and Pastoral Care”.
This was with the intention of offering support to ministers and members of the Church of Scotland, to inform and to assist those offering pastoral care.
Now, you may wonder, in our series of sermons on the Acts of the Apostles texts offered to us by the lectionary at Easter, what this subject has to do with the text before us today.
Well, I would want to emphatically state – everything. [Read more…]