As many of you know, I am part of a group of disciples who are working to proclaim resurrection in the Episcopal Church. Our mission, as articulated in the founding blog posts of the movement, finds is roots in the eighth chapter of Acts. This is a turning point in the life of the fledgling Church. Stephen has just been martyred, while Saul looked on approvingly, and the first significant persecution is underway. Because of the faithfulness of those early Christians, who fled Jerusalem but not their faith in Christ, the Christian faith is still around today. It is a story of hope, of evangelism, and of perseverance. It is a story that has motivated the Acts 8 Movement to continue to call Episcopalians to share the good news of God in Christ with a world that desperately needs it.
As one who has spent a lot of time immersed in Acts 8, it is always exciting to me when it rolls around in the lectionary cycle. This is especially true on Easter 5B, as we hear the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. I could probably write a book on this passage, but blogs are supposed to be short form, so I’ll spare you the long diatribe and jump right in to the word that leaped off the screen at me this morning. Philip, having been brought to the wilderness road by the Holy Spirit, overhears the Eunuch reading from Isaiah. In a manner that is quite forward, Philip approaches the Eunuch and asks, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He responded, “How can I, unless someone guides me?”
This word, “guide,” caught my attention this morning. Digging into it a bit, I found that the Greek word, hodegeo, is used only four other places in the New Testament. Twice, in Luke and Matthew, it is used in variations of the idiom “the blind leading the blind.” In Revelation, it is used to describe what the lamb at the center of throne will do for the rest of us sheep, “guiding us to the springs of the water of life.” Of most interest, however, is how it gets used by John in the Gospel. Late in Jesus’ ministry, as part of his farewell discourse, Jesus promises his disciples another advocate, the Spirit, who will guide (hodegeo) them into all truth.
Of further interest, is the etymology of hodegeo, which, according to Robertson, comes from hodos meaning way and hegeomai meaning to lead. Beyond simply guiding, what the Spirit is sent to do, and what the Spirit does through Philip for the Eunuch, is to lead him in the Way. The Spiritual work, then, for all of us who claim to be disciples of Jesus, is to lead others in the Way of Jesus. This assumes that we will, ourselves, be disciples, having been lead in the Way by others. It assumes that we will all be growing in our faith and in our understanding of the Gospel and of God, in order to teach others. It assumes, more than anything else, that we will be in tune with the Spirit, who will guide us, as was the case for Philip, into all truth and into opportunities to guide others.