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Dr. E. G. Sherman, Jr. Sunday February 13, 2011
THE ETHIOPIAN EUNUCH
Acts 8:26-28 “And angel of the Lord spake unto Philip... he arose ( and met ) a man of Ethiopia”.
This Sunday is weekly day of worship for Christians
throughout the world. Whereas some Sundays encompass a
special focus like Mother’s Day, for example, the Second Sunday
in February has two additional focuses, namely: Race Relation
Observation and the beginning of what Carter G. Woodson started
as Negro History. That latter emphasis has been enlarged to
include the entire month of February and is now known as Black
History Month. This is also the month that encompasses the birth
day of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas.
While both of these event are significant, the sermon today will
be confined to the Black History emphasis. It has been entitled,
The Ethiopian Eunuch. The sermon has been planned around
three objectives, namely: to document the long history of Black
participation in the history of Christianity; to implant a seed of
racial pride in us as people of Color; and to stimulate thoughts
on our self perception in this journey known as life.
In addition to its textual basis, the sermon will include two
other sources for the topic of Blacks in the Bible; they are: All the
Men of the Bible, by Herbert Lockyer and The Black Presence in the
Bible, by Walter Arthur McCray. These sources include an
extensive listing of Blacks in the Bible, some of which are Moses’
Wife, Joseph’s Wife, Simon of Cyrena, Candace, and the Ethiopian
Eunuch. While each of these persons is worthy of a character
study, the sermon will be restricted to the Ethiopian Eunuch.
Prior to addressing the earlier identified objectives, attention
will be focused on the Ethiopian Eunuch. This person lived during
the 1st Century which was also the time of the Apostles. He was
a native of an African area known as Ethiopia. That country was
so named to designate the skin color of the inhabitants. In
biblical archaeology, the area is labeled as Cush or the land of
one of Noah’s Sons. “Modern Ethiopia is an independent country
occupying some 450, 000 square miles of Eastern Africa between
Sudan and Somalia. The natives referred to Ethiopia as
Abyssinia, or brotherhood. Let us keep this word, Abyssinia, in
for it will appear again later in the sermon. Against this brief
account of the Eunuch’s native country, attention will now be
focused on the earlier identified objectives, the first of which is
to document the long history of Black participation in the history
of Christianity. Even before the New Testament period, Blacks
were involved in Old Testament Religion. Moses, author of the
first five books of the Old Testament was married to a Black
Woman. Joseph, the youngster sold into Egyptian slavery was
married to a woman of color, Queen Candice who provided supplies
for Solomon to construct the Temple was a woman of Color; one
of the three wise men who visited the Christ Child was from Africa,
Simon who was forced to bear the cross of Jesus was a man of
color, and the Ethiopian Eunuch was a black man. Beloved, these
are but a few people of color that lived during early Biblical
history. Against this biblical background, let us turn to a gross
historical distortion; it is that Caucasian, or White, argument that
Slavery - despite its horrors - introduced people of color to
Christianity. My friends, that argument is false as revealed by the
same Bible that those people use; further, its falsity is disclosed
by the denial and/restrictions that Plantation owners placed upon
slave worship. In his book on the Negro Church, Emanuel McCall,
indicated that in 1832 Alabama, Georgia, and Virginia had enacted
laws to prohibit Black gathering for religious services. Thirdly, this
falsity of Slavery being the channel of Christianity for Black folk
is reflected in philosophical history. Remembering that slavery
started in 1619, let us life a citation from Morris Engels, History
of Philosophy. It is the section where he documents the existence
of a Black philosopher and theological, Saint Augustine, who lived
from 354-430, long before slavery. This person of color was a
prominent philosopher, write, and later became Bishop of the
Catholic Church in Hippo, Africa. In sum, this synopsis of three
factors has clearly shown that Christianity among people of color
was not a by product of slavery. This incontrovertible fact leads
to the second objective which is to implant a seed of racial pride
in us as people of Color. From the time of Lynch’s address
given in Virginia on the making of a slave to contemporary subtle
tactics, people of color have been humiliated, neglected, exploited,
and even killed. Such dehumanizing efforts have lead to a mind
set of insecurity, under reaction, and black on black assaults.
The urgent need, in this connection, is for a change in the mind
set of our people. How can this reversal be attained? Numerous are
the existing procedures, however, our sermon will emphasize the
one reflected by the Ethiopian Eunuch. In this connection, a brief
profile of the Eunuch is deemed appropriate. The profile discloses
that he was a man of color; he had been rendered incapable of
reproducing and, therefore, known as the Eunuch. Despite these
two problem areas, that individual was literate; hence he could
read ( Acts 8:28); he was a trust worthy person; he was treasurer
for Queen Candace; he rode in a chariot; and possessed a copy of
the Hebrew stroll, and he read during his spare time. The Eunuch,
while being a person of great authority, had a spiritual yearning.
Thus, he frequently read the sacred book of his time. When
approached by Philip, the Eunuch inquired of him as to whom
Esaiah was writing. After having listened to Philip, the Eunuch was
converted and he request Philip to baptize him. The account of
the Eunuch ended with him going on his way which was back to
Ethiopia where, according to Biblical archeology, he established
the first Church in Ethiopia and named it Abyssinia, Christian
brotherhood. Friends, many years later some people of Ethiopia
came to America and they established Churches and named
them Abyssinia Baptist Church, the most famous being located
in Harlem, New York. In sum, this profile clearly shows that being
of color should be no categorical block to education, morality,
self-respect and Christian Service. This fact leads to the third, and
final objective of the sermon, namely - to stimulate thought on our
purpose on this journey known as life. Beloved, and especially our
young people, we are people of color so let us remember the biblical
question - Can the Ethiopian change his color or the leopard
its spots. In this regard, we must never let our mind concentrate
on color and its liabilities; instead, we must learn to read, to think,
and to be proud of our accomplishments. While there are many
obstacles on our pathway, we must never shutter and grow sick.
Instead, we must familiarize ourselves with books, including the
Bible. As we become more serious and prayerful about our future,
the Lord will send a way maker in to our life; he did it for the
Ethiopian Eunuch and that person was thoroughly blessed. He
rejoiced in giving his life to Jesus; he went back to his country and
established a Church; and his legacy has been recorded in the
annals of time. Friends, we may never hold an extremely powerful
office; we may never become financially wealthy; we may never
establish a church; we may never have a building named in our
honor. But all of us can be respectable people of color; we can
develop an appreciation for knowledge; we can display moral,
ethical, and humanitarian values; we can embrace the principles
of Christianity; and we can give our live over to Christ Jesus. Do
you catch the vision; have you accepted Christ and will you remain
on this Christian journey for the long haul?