Year B, Fifth Sunday of Easter Acts 8:26-40; Lectionary reading for May 2
Remember earlier in Acts when Peter needed a vision from God to understand that the Good News was for everyone, not just Jews? This story is similar, and for good reason. 2000 years ago, gods were understood to belong to a specific group of people or to a geographic location. Until Jesus, Yahweh ‘belonged’ only to the descendents of Abraham.
But God did a new thing! At the beginning of Acts, Jesus promised the apostles that they would witness for him in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8). Jesus sent the disciples out into the world to proclaim the Good News to people far and wide. This would have taken some getting used to. Sure, they had received the gift of tongues and could speak to and understand the people in these new lands, but as Jews, well-acquainted with persecution, preaching to strangers must have been quite intimidating. Here in Acts Chapter 8, the Holy Spirit directs Philip to speak to the Ethiopian eunuch. While this man wasn’t likely from as far away as modern Ethiopia, his homeland would definitely have counted as “the uttermost parts of the earth.” Did God really intend his message to extend to those people? To top it all off, this man was a eunuch, which according to Levitical law, made him unfit to make offerings to Yahweh.
The Ethiopian eunuch was a foreigner who looked and spoke differently from anyone the disciples had ever met, and he was… blemished. If he had been in Jerusalem to worship, he must have believed in the God of the Israelites, but he would have been an outcast in Jerusalem; not admitted in the Temple. While you probably don’t need to get into the specifics with your little ones, it might be helpful to explain that Philip knew something was very different about the man in the chariot. Still, with the push of the Holy Spirit, Philip helps the Ethiopian understand the prophecies in Isaiah and baptizes him. He welcomes him into the family of God without caring about where he’s from, what he looks like, or the state of his body. This is a revolutionary welcome! No wonder the Ethiopian “went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:39).”
The world is a much smaller place than it was in Philip’s time, but even in the most multicultural of cities, it’s easy to spend most of our time with people that look, speak, and live just like us. Philip needed an angel and the Holy Spirit to get him to look past appearances and cultural biases to witness to the Ethiopian; and sometimes, we do to.
This beautiful little book by Rachel Isadora just might be the Holy Spirit in disguise for someone in your congregation. Little Carmelita lives in a neighborhood alongside people from around the world. She goes to visit her grandmother and greets everyone she meets in their own language. You’ll learn 9 ways to say hello; 9 new ways to get to know someone from the “uttermost parts of the earth,” 9 new ways to minister with love to the outcast and the stranger. Pretty good for a 30 page book, eh?
Questions to ask before you read:
- What languages do you speak in your home? Do you know any other languages?
- How do you feel about meeting new people?
- How do you feel about meeting people who look or behave differently that you?
Questions to ask after you read:
- Did you know any of these ways to say hello? Do you know any other ways?
- Is there someone in your church, school, or community you haven’t met yet? Which ‘hello’ will you say to get to know them?
- How can you greet someone who can’t hear or can’t see you? How should you greet someone who can’t or won’t say anything back?
Sometimes the simplest books are the best. Clicking the book images takes you to Amazon, where you can support my work through the purchase of a book. You can also support this ministry by following the blog, my Facebook page, or my newborn Instagram account, details coming soon!
Isadora, Rachel. Say Hello! Nancy Paulsen Books, 2017.
If you read this far along, here’s 2 more ways to say hello: an-yong in Korean, and selamat in Malaysian. 😉