ACTS 8:26-40

Gil Guerrero

Scripture: Acts 8:26-40

Selection: Philip & the Eunuch

26 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.) 27 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 worship28and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” 30 So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. 32 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."

33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.”

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 36 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?” 38 He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philipt baptized him. 39 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. 40 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.1

Reflecton John 15:1-5

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunesa to make it bear more fruit. 3 You have already been cleansedb by the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 2


How does one describe the indescribable? 

How do you use words to describe green? How do you describe the sound of a violin? How do you use words to describe the ache of loneliness?

I like to say that I used to be a “Big C” Catholic and have matured into being a “little c” catholic. Heck, for the longest time I didn’t know the foundational definition of catholic was“universal.” I am now a proud member of the universal (little “c” catholic) church.

I was raised in the Roman Catholic tradition, but have come around to the idea that the full Body of Christ is only found by gathering ALL the incomplete truths within each of our increasingly sliced and diced Christian denominations.  As a little c catholic, I still love the idea of sharing liturgy and sharing the same scripture that our millions of brothers and sisters around the world are sharing in a given week from the lectionary. Which is one of the reasons I strongly support the use of the lectionary in our monthly UU Christian Worship service at my church.  It’s important to remember that we are part of a larger Christian body, not just a tiny Christian splinter on the back of the tiny UU splinter of the world’s religions.

I have an image that I often come back to when discussing being Christian: being part of a river of souls.  It is both empowering and humbling knowing that you are part of the long and broad river of souls who have shared and continue to share these rituals and scripture for hundreds and thousands of years. It kind of helps keep our big old egos in check, when we realize all those who have gone before us.

We use imagery and metaphors to describe those things that are not easily understandable, that defy simple explanation. As Christians, we get to share these scriptural images and metaphors together to get a glimpse at the ineffable “ultimate concern” that they point to. 

The Gospel of John this week has one of my favorite images of Jesus in the Bible, Jesus is quoted as saying: “I am the true vine…” Matthew Henry’s commentary that Jesus is talking about the “fruit of the spirit” that the disciples are to bring forth on the earth. I like that vine image. Any of you who have done any kind of gardening know that vines are amazing creations, it almost feels like you can see them growing, or as if they are hiding their growth for the moments when you look away. I don’t know whether, horticulturally, they qualify as the “most” fertile, but they certainly are an impressive manifestation of fertility: they grow and spread and often seem like they will take over a garden. I’ll testify that I had one particular watermelon and vine last year that was starting to remind me of Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors (link to Audrey II:)

Without the knowledge of imagery and symbol, without the knowledge of the culture in which something was written, we’re reduced to just looking at the literal words presented. We are removed from understanding the fullness and richness that a passage might have offered its audience AND are limited in using that richness to inform our own modern lives. Like the Eunuch in Acts this week: Philip asks him if he understands what he is reading and he replies “How can I, unless someone guides me?”

I wandered into a UU Church for the first time as an adult, about 6 years ago. While I had maintained nominal ties to my birthright Christianity, I was unimpressed with how the conventional wisdom seems to understand Christianity and had mostly wandered away from it. Then I met a guide. She led me to some books (some of the “classics” by Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, John Shelby Spong;) those books guided me to further books. In that process I started to see what Jesus was teaching and not what people were teaching about Jesus. I began to see the sacred truth in Jesus’ ministry, without the accretions of centuries of “sacred” tradition about Jesus. Don’t get me wrong: I love the traditions of our Christian heritage, but we have to remember that traditions are not all necessarily sacred. Our scripture has been used to proof-text all kinds of non-Christian nonsense, because we had a “tradition” of slavery, or a “tradition” of women being chattel. 

Our Unitarian (and Reformation) forebears brought the new argument that things need to be viewed in the light of “reason” not just be accepted because of tradition. We live at an amazing time in the scholarship of Jesus. The work of scholars like those above, and those of the Jesus Seminar, are a great gift to us who felt that there was some kernel of transcendent truth in Jesus’ teachings but we couldn’t quite see it clearly because of the barnacles and calcifications of centuries of internecine theological conflicts. These guides can help us chip away these encrustations to find the radical human Jesus, whose ministry is no less needed or radical today as it was in 1st century Palestine. This Jesus was intent on building the Kingdom of God here, on Earth. 

Perhaps some of these words or this website may guide you to further reflection and reading. Perhaps you might be Philip for someone you know, guiding them to a new understanding of what it is to be a “different kind of Christian.”

I’ll close with a piece of scripture the Rev. Kathleen Rolenz shared with the assembled group at Revival 2009, because sometimes we may shy away from sharing our Christianity, or perhaps we may be too strong in how we share it. From the 1st Letter of Peter, Chapter 3:15-17:

Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil.3 

Blessings of peace be with you always and have a good week.

PS: If you’re interested in modern forms of religious choral music, check out Arvo Part’s choral setting of “I Am the True Vine” on Harmonia Mundi France. You can listen to a sample at or at Amazon.

Focusing Questions:  

How does one describe the indescribable? 

How do you use words to describe green? How do you describe the sound of a violin? How do you use words to describe the ache of loneliness?


Everlasting Creator of All things seen and unseen: help us to become productive shoots of the vine of your creation. May we use this gift of consciousness and reason to better follow your loving path. May we be blessed with energy and spirit to manifest the fertile healthy growth of this universe, so that all creatures may be brought into harmony. In Jesus’ Name we pray.  May it be so.

tGk he

1The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989, S. Ac 8:26-40

a The same Greek root refers to pruning and cleansing

bThe same Greek root refers to pruning and cleansing

2 The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989, S. Jn 15:1-5

3The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (1 Pe 3:15-17). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

i Singing the Living Tradition, “Love Will Guide Us”, Boston: Unitarian Universalist Association.

ii Leo Tolstoy, Russian author, 1828-1910.