Daily Devotion Monday, 23 October 2023

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Get up and go towards the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is a wilderness road.)  So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over to this chariot and join it.’ So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’  He replied, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:

‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.’

The eunuch asked Philip, ‘About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?’  Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus.  As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptised?’  He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptised him.  When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.


Pentecost, sometimes described as the birth of the Church, began with God’s great expression of inclusivity as a disparate bunch of people were able to understand each other due to the actions of the Holy Spirit.  Acts proceeds to describe a series of watershed moments where the Good News of Jesus Christ spreads outward from Jerusalem.  In one of those moments an Ethiopian eunuch, who by any measure sat outside the gender norms of their society and was excluded from Temple worship due to laws pronounced in the book of Deuteronomy, is nonetheless baptised and included into the kingdom of God.

For most of my adult life I have worked as a biologist, a research scientist, and for the last decade or so, I’ve served as a URC minister. So, it dismays me to see the complex and wonderfully diverse biological reality of human sex reduced to a simple either/or for the benefit of a conflated ‘culture war’. It equally dismays me that a section of the Church has bought into this culture war and has even claimed it to be ‘Biblical’ or ‘Christian’. 

I do not believe it is either of these things, and I am still a Christian despite Christian attacks on trans and non-binary people. Why? Because the God I see revealed in the life of Jesus is one of love, humility, and service; not bitterness and hatred. I simply cannot imagine Jesus attacking a persecuted and vilified minority when his life was spent reaching out with love to similar marginalised people in his own society. Furthermore, I am greatly encouraged by the recent vote by General Assembly to affirm the human dignity of transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people.


Loving God, who created the great diversity of human life in your image,
help us to see others as you see them.
Give us understanding,
as you did on that day of Pentecost,
to understand each other, appreciate each other,
value the uniqueness of each other,
and help us to develop our full potential in you. Amen

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