Sunday, 26th August we looked at Acts 8 and the mission of Philip.
Conscious of the way we are going on in September to support Middle East Concern and Christians facing persecution in the Middle East we noticed the persecution faced by the followers of Jesus at the outset and how that resulted perversely in the spread of the Gospel.
Telling the story of Philip we noticed how the Gospel spread to and took root among unexpected people.
The Samaritans who discovered Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Simon the magician who has given his name to Simony who following his reprimand asked the Apostles for prayer.
And then the Ethiopian Eunuch. We noticed the draconian measures the Law decrees against those who are Eunuchs in Deuteronomy 26 and the vision of Isaiah 56 that looks to the day when Eunuchs too are drawn into the covenant. We noticed the intriguing word of Jesus in Matthew 19 about those who are born Eunuchs, those who are made Eunuchs by others and those who choose to be Eunuchs for the Kingdom. Again an instance of the unexpected being drawn into the Kingdom by the Christ who has room for all. All interesting stuff to reflect on in the context of conversations on sexuality today.
We noticed that the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's I have a dream speech was coming up this week and made connections with his dream of the kingdom.
And then we focused on the way the Ethiopian needed someone to guide him in the reading of the Bible. Yes, there is an immediacy to the Bible that means we can understand it without explanation. But there is here a recognition that there is a need for guidance in reading the Scriptures.
One of those themes we come back to time and again in Acts is the way that followers of Jesus focus on Jesus and the way he brought to fulfilment the whole of the Law, the Prophets and the Writings.
The climax to the Gospel of Luke is all that happens on the Road to Emmaus and the way Jesus spends a seven mile walk opening the Scriptures to the two and subsequently the rest of that evening demonstrating how all the Law, the Prophets and the Writings find their fulfilment in him to the disicples in teh upper room. It is as if as Acts unfolds that those followers of Jesus have taken to heart his last words and the way he offered them of reading the Hebrew Scriptures. So in their reading of the Scriptures we can join them in reading the Hebrew Scriptures through the eyes of Jesus.
The response of the Ethiopian leaves the Gospel heading towards North Africa and Philip sharing the Good News through all the towns on the way towards Caesarea ... another 'unexpected' place for the Gospel to go as soon we shall see.
But that's for another occasion!