by Christopher Harbin

Two Immigrants and the Gospel
Christopher B. Harbin
Acts 8:26-40

We tend not to overlook how often immigrants and immigrant issues crop up in that book we call the Bible. We tend to read it from very traditional perspectives without grasping how different it often is from our actual modes of conduct, our social status quo, our political stances, our standard expectations on life. In many ways, that problem is compounded by a recognition that it is indeed from a different period in time and from different cultures than our own. Instead of taking the time to evaluate the Bible form within its own context, we just lift verses or phrases out of context because “They speak to me.” In the process, we all too often miss what the Bible is actually saying.

I was speaking with someone this week who asked about a book I had just written. She was surprised to find out that the Bible addressed issues of immigration and immigrants. Today's text just happens to be one of those passages. The Ethiopian Eunuch we find here was traveling in returning pilgrimage from Ethiopia to Jerusalem. He was in a position to do this regularly, and very made the journey once at least every few years. It seems from Ethiopian traditions that many there had been converts to Judaism from the days of their queen's visit to Solomon. (Sheba is an older term for the region currently called Ethiopia.) It was in this tradition that this Eunuch was in pilgrimage, likely representing the court of Ethiopia in Jerusalem during celebrations of Passover and Pentecost.

This Eunuch, however, is not the only immigrant in the story, however. There is, of course the retinue traveling with him. There is another, however, who is mentioned by name in the text, but most often we pass that reality by without any recognition. Philip was one of the deacons of the Jerusalem church. He had been named such when there was a problem in the distribution of food to the widows in the believing community. He had been chos ...

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