Waves of the Spirit

Sunday, April 25, 2021
Pastor Deb Kielsmeier

Acts 8:26-39

We are in the book of Acts.  It is known as the Acts of the Apostles, but could also be named the Acts of the Holy Spirit.  In the beginning of the book of Acts, before Jesus ascended and before the Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost, Jesus promised his disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. You will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth” (1:8).

Now in chapter eight, the holy spirit is the move big time… From the Holy City of Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, which was considered unholy by most Jews, to “the uttermost parts of the earth.”  A place where the heathen lurked.

With great power, the Spirit is moving. Out, out, and out, in concentric circles … a ripple effect of faith. But these ripples were crashing WAVES of the Spirit, breaking all kinds of boundaries- embracing the Greeks, Samaritans, Ethiopians, and Gentiles of every stripe….to the ends of the known world.

What a powerful story!  And folks, it is STILL happening in our world.  And WE get to be a part of it.

In this week’s text we have the story of Spirit-led Philip as he moves into completely new territory by baptizing an Ethiopian eunuch.  He had just witnessed the conversion of many Samaritans, and now Philip is told to get up and go further out, to a desert road between Jerusalem and Gaza – what was a Philistine area.

There he sees a chariot.  Not the kind with two wheels and a man standing up.  No, this was the chariot of the African royalty.  The eunuch had a driver and was sitting inside the chariot on a cushioned bench reading a scroll. (So, no biblical warrant here for reading or texting while driving!  Just sayin’) A richly clothed, dark-skinned leading member of a foreign court would have been rarely encountered by a person like Philip. Yet, the Spirit moves him to boldly run alongside the chariot and ask this upper crust foreigner if he understood what he was reading.

The fact that the eunuch has a scroll and can read the Hebrew or possibly the Greek translation of Isaiah further points to his education and stature.  But he is not prideful or haughty, instead welcomes the interaction. He simply replies, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invites Philip to get in and sit beside him in the chariot.

Philip explains the prophecy and shares the good news of Jesus Christ with him as they ride together. When they suddenly come upon some water, he exclaims, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?”

What prevents you from being baptized?  Well… A LOT.

Was he even a believer? A Jew? What WAS his status?  We know he had come a long way and at great expense to worship Israel’s God in Jerusalem– and YET, he would have been prevented from entering the Temple due to his deformity. And he would have been prevented from participating in sacred rituals – including baptism. OUCH.

But Philip – lead by the Spirit – doesn’t think twice. Of course, he can be baptized. All who follow Christ – are in. With the outpouring of the Spirit… The foreigners are in, the eunuchs are in, and later, the Gentiles are in. They are all welcomed into God’s Kingdom.

Make no mistake, this desert road baptism exploded all kinds of boundaries.  It shook things up. But there is God’s gracious Spirit, running out ahead, intent on redeeming the entire world.

I love this story!  But how does this story connect to our lives here in 2021?

First of all, an angel appears to Philip. Not an everyday occurrence – we don’t know if it was a vison or what, but Philip was obedient. He went to the desert road. Then, as he was walking, the Spirit speaks Philip, telling him to run up to the chariot and talk to the Ethiopian eunuch. Did Philip actually hear an audible voice? That also is quite unusual.

For me, it is really easy to begin my day on a horizontal plane. Hit the alarm, grab a cup of coffee, check my calendar and to-do list, and I am off.  Do you see how that puts us on a horizontal plane? We operate in the here and now. But Philip, was inviting the Spirit in. He was listening to what the Holy Spirit was telling him and where the Spirit was nudging him. There was a vertical aspect.  That is something that we can do as well.  We can invite God into our day from the get-go.

I have a friend who, In the morning, always prays, “God, today show me who it is that I should talk to. Show me if there is someone who needs a word of encouragement or needs a smile or a listening ear.”  If you try that, as you go about your day, at work, at home, or even in a zoom meeting, see if the Spirit prompts or nudges you. Ask the Spirit to give you eyes to see, ears to hear, and the courage to respond to those nudges. When we do this, we begin to operate on two levels – horizontal and vertical.  I challenge you to try it this week.

We may not encounter angels or audibly hear the voice of God – but when we tune into the Holy Spirit, it is amazing how God will invite us into life-changing adventures.  And that invitation includes the challenge to come alongside our partners in Global Mission.  According to the early church fathers and church tradition, the Ethiopian eunuch shared the good news of Jesus Christ, and the Ethiopian church was born – and it continues to flourish to this very day.

The waves of the Spirit.  Rippling out. Stretching beyond boundaries. To Guatemala, Tanzania, Thailand and the very ends of the earth… the Spirit continues to bring new life, healing and hope to all people.   And what true joy it is, when we – like Phillip and the Ethiopian – respond to the Spirit’s leading.


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