There is a story about some Christian missionaries going to a place in the African continent to a tribe of people who had never had missionaries before. This tribe also had no written language and no knowledge of the Christian message.
So, the missionaries started out learning their language and working with the tribe to create a written alphabet. They then began to work on translating the Scriptures into this tribe’s language. But they ran into a problem. This tribe had never seen a “lamb” before and Christ is called in the Scriptures “the Lamb of God” Who takes away the sin of the world.
How are they going to communicate the central message of the Christian faith – that God sent His only Son to save the world – if one of the central allegories of the faith is absolutely unknown to these people? The closest this tribe could come was the domesticated pigs they kept for food. But can you translate “lamb of God” into “pig of God?” Sorry, that doesn’t seem to work!
What if you’ve believed something all your life and new information (at least “new” to you) comes along and throws into question your whole world view? The chances of misunderstanding and miscommunication goes up considerably.
Frankly, this is what I faced when I began questioning my own religious ideas as I journeyed closer and closer to the Orthodox Christian Faith. I was confronted with a whole set of “new” ideas and epistemology (it’s worth the work to look it up!) that challenged practically every “settled” issue in my religious world. I had to come to grips with realizing that the meta-filter I was using to organize all the information I had was flawed, NOT because it was “wrong” but because it was TOO SMALL! The “new” information I was learning simply didn’t fit into all the cubby holes I had for all my beliefs. And you know the rest of the story, I finally came to the conclusion that I had to get a bigger God! Actually, I had to humbly bow before the God Who turned out to be bigger than I had imagined before!
In today’s Epistle Lesson we come across a man who had a similar experience. In the Acts of the Apostles 8:26-39 we read the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch and St. Phillip. St. Phillip was one of the original members of the 70 disciples of the Lord and also one of the first seven deacons in the infant Church described in the book of Acts (Today is his feast day. “O Holy Apostle Philip, intercede to our merciful God, that He may grant our souls forgiveness of sins”).
It’s not everyday you get to read the story of the beginning of a Faith for a whole new nation of people, but today we are reading the story of how Christianity came to Ethiopia! And this glorious message was possible because a follower of Christ obeyed and loved and a hearer of the Gospel loved and obeyed!
The key moment of truth came in this interaction between the eunuch and the Apostle: “So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless some one guides me?’ And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.” Acts 8:30-31.
“How can I, unless someone guides me?” The key to any spiritual progress in our lives, they key to any growth in our souls, any maturing of our hearts and minds, lies within this encounter! I first have to admit I need a guide before I can ever be led! And I won’t be led to deeper truth and stronger spiritual maturity without this absolutely necessary quality of soul. Humility opens heaven! Humility heals hearts! Humility reveals truth.
In a tipping point moment that changed the destiny of an entire nation, the humility and teachable spirit of a eunuch and the obedience and love of a follower of Christ had consequences far greater than either of these men could imagine.
Today, you and I are invited to never stop growing in our faith, to never stop, in humility, seeking to know Him more. Today, you may be like this Ethiopian or you may be someone’s St. Phillip in all your encounters during this day. You never know how your obedience, your humility, and your love for God and others may just change the course of someone’s life forever.
Today, be open and available and humble enough to ask for help and offer help!