Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Jewish God-fearer: Acts 8 with poem by Roger Williams, God Makes a Path

Daily Readings
Psalm 7, Genesis 9, Isaiah 10:5-32, Acts 8:1b-40

Daily Text: Acts 8:1b-40

A Jewish God-fearer
The first of the seven deacons, Stephen is dead and his death has sparked a persecution of the Hellenistic church in Jerusalem. Acts 8 is about a second of those deacons, Philip by name, who is forced out of Jerusalem in the ensuing persecution. Fleeing for his freedom and his life, he preaches as he travels to a Samaritan city, possibly Gitta, that history tells us was the home of one Simon Magus. That fellow responds to the signs and wonders performed within Philip’s ministry and he is converted more or less, baptized and becomes a companion of the said deacon. That is, he does until Peter and John come down from Jerusalem to instruct concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Then he is so impressed that he reverts and offers Peter money (the act of simony) if he will teach him how to do this ‘trick!’ What a mistake that was, for Peter reams him out for fair. Simon Magus, if he is the same one, built a reputation for opposing Peter in Rome in later years. If that is so, Peter’s rebuke served to show him who he was, and to create an enemy not forgotten in a lifetime [cf. 549:184].

When Peter and John return to Jerusalem, Philip must have accompanied them, for the very next reference in this chapter is that of an angel appearing to Philip and sending him down the Jerusalem road to Gaza, which is southwest of Jerusalem, not at all in the vicinity of a Samaritan city. Here Philip joins a traveling Ethiopian official, a Jewish God-fearer, and explaining the words of the prophet Isaiah to him, makes another convert for Christ. Ethiopian’s have a long tradition in Jewish-Christian history dating back to the Queen of Sheba visiting King Solomon. Many of them in Ethiopia, now with numerous Christians, continue to be Jews. They claim to have the original ark from the tabernacle of David and Solomon’s time. When Jerusalem fell in 597 the ark disappeared and the Ethiopian’s assert that they rescued it and took it to their own land for safe-keeping. At any rate, thes Ethiopian eunuch fits into this historical pattern of one who worships Israel’s God, becomes a Christian, and takes this renewed faith back to his own nation. God is quickly at work spreading the faith from Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth. Philip the deacon is implicated deeply in this movement.

God Makes a Path
Roger Williams

God makes a path, provides a guide,
And feeds a wilderness;
His glorious name, while breath remains,
O that I may confess..

Lost many a time, I have had no guide,
No house but a hollow tree!
In stormy winter night no fire,
No food, no company;

In Him I found a house, a bed,
A table, company;
No cup so bitter but’s made sweet,
Where God shall sweetening be.


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