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Monday, July 18, 2016

Today’s Reading | Acts 8:26–40

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. (NRSV)

“This is a desert place” sets the vision of this scripture so poignantly for me. Barren, hot, dry, and dusty. I can see the road stretching out ahead of Philip as he wonders why he has been sent here of all places.

It sometimes seems like we have been sent into our own version of a desert, and there is likely to be some grumbling about why we have been sent to this place.

Then in the midst of the desert you encounter the unexpected. This Ethiopian traveling to Jerusalem to worship made a big commitment for one who had to come all that way through the desert. His discovery of the writing of Isaiah was exciting but the words hard to comprehend. Yet here he was in the middle of the desert trying to grasp the gospel story as foretold before it had occurred.

This unlikely encounter in the midst of a desert brought both understanding and salvation to the Ethiopian but it also gives us a glimpse into how the gospel has been sent to the farthest corners of the world as well as into the deserts in our own lives.

When we find ourselves in the desert, we may not encounter an Ethiopian in a chariot, but we are sure to find seekers. If we don’t have Philip’s knowledge and skills to guide, we still have our own witness of the way we live into our faith.

Philip was “carried away” by the Spirit of the Lord, but in our version its more likely that we may only briefly encounter a seeker or be observed in the way we act and then never seen again.

I pray my witness will be a guide as I go down the desert road and that I may encounter many seekers along the way.

Thank you, Lord, for sending me on my journey. Wherever it takes me I pray for your guidance and that I may be someone’s guide to your love and salvation, even in the small things I do and the way I live into my faith in you. Amen.

Written by Ed Coke, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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