God often acts in mysterious ways. His redemptive activity frequently happens in the most unlikely of places.
Perhaps the story of Steve represents what I am reflecting on. Steve came from the Atlanta area. In his younger years, he worked as a street musician in the greater Atlanta area. He was actually pretty good at it. Most of his income was used to support his alcoholism.
One evening, he was having supper at a free meal type of setting when a group of college-aged youths walked in. His first thought was, “Oh no, here come the Christians.” They spotted his guitar in the corner and begged him to play something for them. He played something kind of routine and innocuous, like from Peter, Paul and Mary.
The youths were enthralled, and implored him to play at their church. He emphatically stated that he didn’t do church or church music. They insisted, and made arrangements to provide transportation for him come Sunday. As they discovered he was homeless, they set up a tent in someone’s backyard for him. That continued until a neighbor complained and the city stepped in. They then allowed him to sleep in a car.
Steve later commented that these young people changed his life, not because of what they said, but because of the way they lived out their faith.
In Acts 8, we see how the good news of Jesus begins to spread beyond the city of Jerusalem. What I find so fascinating about Acts 8 is to whom the good news of Jesus is spreading. It was not the religious elites — those who think they have it all together and those who have been at the center of the religious world, who first embrace the good news — but rather, the marginalized, or as some might suggest, the "outcasts."
The Holy Spirit directs Philip to go to the road leading to Gaza. That may have been a somewhat unlikely path to take. Philip obeys. He does not relate to a large crowd; he relates to a single Ethiopian individual. In that manner, the good news of Jesus is transmitted to Ethiopia.
The story of an outcast being given status as a child of God is a powerful story, especially to those who share in the burden of being denied the privilege. That is why the story of the Ethiopian eunuch is so significant.
In the story of the Ethiopian eunuch, we have the story of a person who, from an Old Testament perspective, was respectable in every way, but as a eunuch, could not be part of God’s redemption in this world. As Deuteronomy suggests, he could not “belong to the Lord’s assembly.” His status as a castrated male left him unredeemable.
Where do we see God’s unexpected redemption happening? Where do we see God redeeming the unredeemable? How are we being encouraging of God’s redemptive activities today?
Galen Penner is the pastor of the Rochester Mennonite Church. "From the Pulpit" runs on the Saturday faith pages and features reflections from area religious leaders. To contribute, contact Life Editor Meredith Williams at 701-429-1749 or firstname.lastname@example.org.