I’ve been thinking over the last week about how easily I become judgemental. When people don’t have the same beliefs or ideas as me, it’s very easy to discount them. Or simply to leave them in the corner to ignore. Last Sunday after church I had a conversation about who God allows to be in leadership within Christian communities and congregations. It’s a conversation I used to have regularly, but have found less necessary since belonging to a community who have affirmed my own call to leadership and ministry. The conversation on Sunday made me remember again the beautiful, surprising and abundant grace of God, which enfolds and enables and invites all people no matter who they are or what they are told by others about themselves. It made me remember that good news is for male and female, slave or free, ‘us’ and ‘not-us.’
Nadia Bolz-Weber’s book Cranky, beautiful faith includes a reflection on the encounter between Philip and the Eunuch in Acts 8. Philip is instructed by the Holy Spirit to join the Ethiopian eunuch, and shares with him how to interpret stories from Isaiah in light of stories about Jesus. And the eunuch responds, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” Bolz-Weber asks whether the encounter was primarily a conversion for the eunuch or for Philip. For the Ethiopian eunuch represents a kind of outsider who Philip might imagine has no place within the community of Jesus-followers. “I realized…that I need the equivalent of the Ethiopian eunuch to show me faith. I need the stranger, the foreigner, the ‘other’ to show me water in the desert.” This is the kind of faith that prays for and confronts those whose actions we don’t agree with, without ever dehumanising them or forgetting that God’s grace is for ‘them’ as much as for ‘us.’
Bolz-Weber continues, “we can all be converted anew by the stranger, and see where there is water in the desert and enter fully into the baptism of God’s mercy with foreigners, with the “not us.” And then go on our way rejoicing, having converted each other again and again to this beautiful, risky, expansive life of faith.” Through the breath of the Holy Spirit, God transforms even the ‘not us’ into a community of hospitality and reconciliation. The old barriers are broken down; my judgemental attitudes are stripped away; God makes an Easter-people out of a no- and divided-people. This Holy Week, may we find our lives turned upside-down yet again as we encounter God in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.