Tag Archives: Ethiopian eunuch

A blessed stranger (Easter 5B, 3 May 2015)

Reading
Acts 8.26–40

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.…The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
1 John 4.1, 21

At the beginning of our service, we prayed a Prayer of Invocation which came from Korea. It began:

Stay with us, blessed stranger,
for the day is far spent,
and we have not yet recognised your face
in each of our sisters and brothers.

Philip the deacon met a stranger, a blessed stranger, on the wilderness road from Jerusalem to Gaza. And Philip saw the face of Jesus in the stranger’s own face.

This is part of the fulfilment of Jesus’ words to the disciples in Acts 1:

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

The Book of Acts is about the way the Good News of Jesus spread in those early days of the Church. At first the message was heard in Jerusalem, and then in Judea; those who were part of the covenant people were to hear it, and respond. Which they did.

But the message couldn’t be contained to the people of the covenant. It burst those boundaries, like new wine bursting old wineskins. They proclaimed it in Samaria, where tainted people lived because their ancestors had violated the covenant.

And then the next step comes: the ends of the earth. Total non-Jews. And so we come to the first recorded time that someone from “the ends of the earth” heard the Good News of Jesus.

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No partiality (Easter 6, Year B, 13 May 2012)

Readings
Acts 10.44-48
John 15.9-17

Pentecost is coming in two weeks’ time. The name ‘Pentecost’ comes from the Greek word meaning fifty; the Day of Pentecost comes on the fiftieth day after Easter. It’s the end of the Easter Season and the climax of Eastertide—God raised Jesus from the dead and then sent the Spirit of the Risen Christ upon all believers.

Pentecost is a big day; we often call it ‘the birthday of the Church’. We’ll hear the story then, and we know it well already: the believers are gathered together, the Spirit comes upon them as wind and fire, and they speak in other languages. And some lucky reader gets to say delicious words like Phrygia and Pamphylia.

The Pentecost story shows how much we—the Church of Jesus Christ—depend upon the Spirit as we go out into the world on God’s mission. It also shows that the Spirit continues to grow more and more of the risen life of Jesus Christ within his people and among us.

I’ve mentioned an author called John V Taylor several times. In a book first published in 1972 called The Go-Between God, Bishop Taylor spoke of the Spirit and the Mission. He said:

The chief actor in the historic mission of the Christian church is the Holy Spirit. [The Spirit] is the director of the whole enterprise. The mission consists of the things that [the Spirit] is doing in the world.

The mission of God consists of the things the Spirit is doing in the world—especially the light that the Spirit is focussing on the risen Lord Jesus. The Spirit of Jesus leads, we follow. The Spirit raises us to renewed life with Jesus.

But the people of God don’t always welcome the way the Holy Spirit works. In fact, the Spirit caught the Church off-guard right back in the time of the Book of Acts. The Spirit was raising all sorts of people to new life. The Holy Spirit was intent on tearing barriers down, pulling down walls of separation, bringing people together as one in the name of the Risen Lord.

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God is love (Easter 5, Year B, 6 May 2012)

Readings
Acts 8.26-40
1 John 4.7-21
John 15.1-8

Back in 1967, The Beatles sang

All you need is love.

And they were right. Love is all you need.

Many of us spend our whole lives trying to find that love. We look for it everywhere, convinced it’s ‘out there’, somewhere. We look for it in romantic attachments, in our children, in friends, in sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.

Sometimes we find enough of it to meet our aching need. Sometimes we find it only to lose it again, or to realise that the ‘love’ we found wasn’t love at all.

The Bible talks a lot about love, and no more so than in 1 John. Let’s refresh our memory:

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

In fact, John goes further than that. He says,

God is love.

What does that mean? How do we see God’s love for us? John answers this question too:

In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

John is saying that God loves the unlovely. God loves those who put his only Son on the cross, where he died for them. Can we believe that? It’s not necessarily easy for every believer to believe that. It’s not easy because either

  • we think we’re deep down unloveable and don’t deserve God’s love; or,
  • we think we’re better than most and God is lucky to have us on his team.

Both are dead wrong.

The fact is that God loves each one of us absolutely and unconditionally and for ever.

Of course, the love we’re used to is deeply conditional. We love others as long as they do the right thing. But if they do something to hurt us or our family, then we criticise and turn against them.

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Faith, hope and love—for a eunuch

Sermon for Easter 5 (10 May 2009)

Acts 8.26-40
1 John 4.7-21

…faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

This comes from 1 Corinthians 13, one of the best-known chapters of the New Testament. It’s been called ‘the love chapter’ and is often heard at weddings—and since Princess Di’s funeral, sometimes there too. Do you remember it? You know it—it’s the one that goes

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.

Remember it now? Let’s hear that verse again, 1 Corinthians 13.13:

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Faith, hope and love. The Ethiopian Eunuch in today’s first reading knew something about faith, hope and love. Let’s try to see how.

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