Sermon : On What It Means to be a ‘Eunuch’ Today

The Rev. Joseph H. Gilbert heads Metropolitan Community Church in Silver Lake

Before I start, I want to acknowledge that I have played a bit loose with the word “eunuch.” In Hebrew we only really know what the word implies. From its root, it means an impotent male, probably castrated. But it is often translated as a “minister of state “ (a chamberlain) or even an “officer” (sometimes military, sometimes household). In Judah, eunuchs were, in most cases, foreigners and excluded from the congregation. By the time of Jesus, it mean an unmarried man.

We are going to assume that the word could apply to what we might now refer to as “sexual minorities”-lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transsexuals-those very people who today are most likely to be excluded from the congregation.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus says: “ For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the (realm of God). Let anyone accept this who can.”


For our purposes it does not matter whether Jesus meant impotent, not a word that many gay people would relate to, or simply unmarried. What matters is that Jesus is talking about people who are not deemed to be normal in his culture and he does so with great respect, even affection.

We know that gay and lesbian people may have been so from birth, and if not absolutely from birth, then at least from such an early age that there can be no question of their having made moral (or, as imputed by others, immoral) choices. There is nothing in this teaching that can possibly be used to justify the rulings of some churches that once you figure out who you are you cannot possibly be yourself. There is nothing that says to me, a gay man who has always known this to be true, “the churches’ teachings on marriage are binding on you, Joseph.”

So let us look at one particular eunuch who obviously loved God: the Ethiopian eunuch. Not just an infertile man, not just an impotent man, not just a foreigner, but an African too-a person of color. Maybe he was literally a castrated man, maybe not. Maybe what you and I would call a gay man. Maybe a sissy, maybe not. Maybe closeted (because he was a high court official, secretary of the treasury to the Candace, queen of Ethiopia) or maybe not. What we do not know for sure is that in spite of his love of God, in spite of the fact that he hadgone up to Zion to worship God, he had to wait in the outer courtyard. He was not “fit” to enter into the temple, according to the religious authorities of the time.

And returning home by the way of the wilderness road (How many of us are familiar with that road?) the eunuch meets Philip, who has been directed there by God’s Holy Spirit especially for this encounter. Philip teaches and baptizes him. (The eunuch’s) question comes ringing down even to gay and lesbian people who love God today: “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?”

It is possible that neither Luke writing about it nor Philip providing the ministryknow what they were dealing with. It is possible that Matthew does not understand what Jesus is saying. What is not possible is that Jesus does not know what he is saying or to whom.

And that means that you have a God-given right to hear it. Whatever your family, neighbors, co-workers, the church, your own homophobia or even the U.S. military may think of you, your relationship with God is not in doubt. As Scripture says elsewhere: “Neither death, nor life,nor angles, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our (soverign).