I Saw A Ghost

They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:4)

I remember being fascinated by the name “Holy Ghost” in the Apostles’ Creed when I was a kid. My childish imagination predictably shot into overdrive each Sunday. Who is this Ghost we talk about each week? And why am I the only one who seems to find this so intriguing? No one else seemed troubled or excited by this Ghost business. My mind, however, shifted from holy and uplifting thoughts about Jesus’ great love for me to every Halloween movie I had seen or heard about.

How many of us today have a solid understanding of the Holy Spirit (or, if you prefer, Ghost)? We know who God the Father is. He creates. We see His work. Heck, we are His work! As much as we know about the Father, we know still more about God the Son. Jesus Christ was born of a Virgin, gathered disciples, preached the coming Reign of God, healed all manner of sick people, cast out legions of demons, gave up His life as a sacrifice for the world, and rose from the dead! But the Holy Spirit? Who is He?

Far from haunting the dark and dilapidated house down the street from you, the Holy Spirit’s work is all around us. Not creation, but re-creation. Where there is death, the Holy Spirit breathes life. Where brokenness, restoration. Where sin, forgiveness. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit was seen and heard in the words spoken by the twelve Apostles. Some who heard them said, “we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”

In fact, if you were to look for the Holy Spirit today, you would find Him easily! Perhaps not in the confused thinking of an untrained five-year-old, but in the words spoken by the child who sings “Yes, Jesus loves me”. Perhaps not whispered in the ears of the faithful who have prayed “hard enough”, but proclaimed boldly from the pulpits of congregations with pastors who recognize and understand how to divide God’s good words of Law and Gospel. Perhaps not in the dreamy moments right before waking, but in the water and word of Baptism, the bread and wine, Body and Blood of the Lord’s Supper.

The Holy Spirit is not some aimless ghost, wandering around looking for just the right person to pester. The Holy Spirit concretely presents Himself to His people in the Words of Holy Scripture and in the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. The Holy Spirit is the One every Christian has come to know! The Holy Spirit is the One responsible for introducing us to Jesus. The Holy Spirit has been breathing out this Word of life through Christ alone since Jesus sent Him on Pentecost about 2,000 years ago.

May we not be like my young self, asking “who is this Holy Ghost?”, but rather like the Apostles and Christians throughout the ages who have recognized Him through His holy work of bringing people to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ!

O Holy Spirit, come to us and speak to us, strengthening us in the one true faith in Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

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The Ethiopian Unicorn

And he [Philip] rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. (Acts 8:27-28)

I had the distinct privilege of studying the Bible with some fifth graders this weekend. Our passage for exploration was the account of the Holy Spirit bringing Philip, the deacon, to an Ethiopian Eunuch. Each student took turns reading a verse at a time and inevitably struggled each time with the word “eunuch”. Once it was pronounced “eench”; another time “unch”; and a third time simply “ee-nutch”. All completely understandable and probably a mistake that even some adults would make because we so rarely use the word. My all time favorite pronunciation, however, was “unicorn”!

I had to fight back a giggle as I thought about what these youngsters were probably imagining. An Ethiopian Unicorn! A mythic creature that has adorned the walls of little girls’ rooms for years. In my mind’s eye, I see Philip, sent by the Holy Spirit, walking up to a chariot. With much surprise imprinted upon his face at the sight of a unicorn seated in a chariot, Philip proceeds to unpack all of Holy Scripture for him. There, on the road from Jerusalem to Ethiopia, Philip walked down to the river to Baptize the Ethiopian Unicorn! What a sight! What an imagination! What a fun group of kids we have!

I wonder how often we sit down to read the Bible, only to find ourselves having difficulty understanding. Think about it this way, Luke would not have included the point that the Ethiopian man was a eunuch unless it was important in understanding what was happening. The fact that this man was a eunuch at the time of the New Testament tells us some things about him. First, he had a prestigious place within the court of the Queen of Ethiopia. Having undergone castration, he was welcome in the presence of the queen, likely alone. This means he had the ear of the most influential person in the entire region! 

Put this information now into the context of the story and all of a sudden it makes tremendous sense why the Holy Spirit would send his servant Philip not to a unicorn of Ethiopia, but to this highly prominent eunuch. Philip had the opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with this man, who in turn shared the same Gospel with a nation through the queen! 

Stories such as these are important because they demonstrate to us the great lengths the Lord will go in order to bring the wonderful message of salvation to the entire world! Jesus Christ came not for one people, but for all people! He came for you and me. Just as the message of freedom in Christ came to the Ethiopians through word of mouth, so has the report of Jesus’ resurrection spread to our neck of the woods. 

To the chagrin of our fifth graders, there is no such thing as an Ethiopian Unicorn. But there was a high-ranking eunuch who became a Christian and shared the message of love and forgiveness in Christ with his people!

 

Dear Jesus, thank you for calling to faith an Ethiopian Eunuch, along with countless other men, women, and children throughout history. Thank you for calling me to faith! Amen.