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What can prevent me from being baptised?

Today we have the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. It’s a story of being in the right place at the right time and being open to the leading of the Spirit of God. It’s also a story of seeing the image of God in everyone that we come in contact with.

This eunuch would have been very different from Philip, different in appearance, different in importance and different in culture. We are told this person was a court official who was in charge of the entire treasury, in fact they remind me a bit of Joseph and the Pharaoh.

The question this eunuch asks of Philip is an important question, and one that I reflect on every time I am asked to baptise someone. “What can prevent me from being baptised?” Of course, Philip finds no reason not to! There is water, there is the Spirit, and there is an eager eunuch ready to dig into the word. There is no reason not to baptise! And we need this important reminder: that baptism need not be about who is a member, who is has committed to a weekly offering, whose grandchildren hold special meaning to church, or who the church feels needs to be excluded for any reason at all. There is no reason not to baptise (let’s say that again! There is no reason not to baptise!) Baptism needs only to have an eager student, a willing teacher, and a body of water.

The person being baptised by Philip is one who would normally be excluded by many of the standards in Philip’s time. Unfortunately, that can be true by today’s standards as well. He is a foreigner, a traveller, a stranger in a strange land, a non-binary in a gendered world, and a representative of Empire as a servant of the Queen. None of these are barriers for Philip. What draws Philip in is the eunuch’s enthusiasm to learn – to question and explore the prophecy of Isaiah. And that is truly what should draw us all to the waters of Baptism – our own eagerness to hear more, to learn from a mentor, to dig into scripture.

Next week we will be baptising little Amelia Pinkerton. Now she hasn’t begun her exploration of the scriptures, but David and Leila have, and they will challenge and support her when she is old enough to question and explore.

When we come to the waters of baptism we pray for the presence of the Spirit. For me, it is really important to create space for the Spirit to work and bless. That’s not my role, nor is it yours. Ours is the support we give our people and the continuity of being the family of God in this place and at this time. There is no reason at all not to baptise one who is seeking and asking for baptism.

Jay Robinson

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