Summary: A sermon about following the call of the Spirit.
Just think for a moment.
If you were to give up control of your own plans for even just an hour, where might the Holy Spirit of God send you?
How many of your “accidental” encounters with other people are really divinely ordained?
How often is God calling you to share the Gospel with someone who is outside the Church…
…with someone who is marginalized…
…with someone who is seeking God…
…with someone who is hurting…
…with someone who is seeking to understand?
It can become easy for us, who are accustomed to the Church, to take for granted that those on the outside already “know” what we are about…
…what Jesus is about…
…what life in the Church is about.
But many, many people don’t understand.
Many folks see us as a foreign breed, and as a people who speak another language of which they have no understanding.
They don’t know that the Church is not only a welcoming place, but a place that exists for them.
How many times, I couldn’t count, have I encountered people whom I have invited to church and they will say to me, “I would come but I don’t have any fancy clothes,” or “Do you allow black people to attend?”…
…or, or, or…
In Acts 1:8 Jesus says, “the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
In other words, go and tell everyone everywhere about the Good News of Jesus Christ!!!
And everyone means everyone!!!
And baptize them in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them everything Jesus has taught us!!!
This is the call of the Church—it’s a universal call.
Every member is called to do this, and we are called to invite everyone into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
We are to have: “Open hearts, Open minds and Open doors,” as we are led by the Holy Spirit preaching Christ to everyone we encounter.
This is what Philip was doing in our Scripture passage for this morning.
Philip was one of seven Greek-speaking Jewish Christians who had been appointed by the Twelve Apostles to take care of the needs of others, especially widows, in the Greek-speaking part of the Church.
He is also known as “Philip the evangelist,” and had four daughters who were prophets in the Christian community.
He was a man who listened to the Holy Spirit of God, and wasn’t afraid to take risks for the Gospel of Christ.
We are told that an angel of the Lord directed Philip to change his travel plans, and to take “the road that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza.”
It was, indeed a divine directive.
Philip followed the directions and came upon “an Ethiopian man [who] was on his way home from Jerusalem…
…[the man] was a eunuch and an official responsible for the entire treasury of” the Ethiopian queen.
The fact that the man was a eunuch seems to be particularly important to Luke, the author of Acts, since he mentions this five times in this short passage.
In ancient times a eunuch was a castrated male servant who was neutered so that he could be deemed “safe” to serve the women of a royal household.
But, despite this, they were deemed to be “sexually immoral.”
So, what had the Eunuch been doing in Jerusalem?
We are told that “he had come to worship.”
This tells us that he was drawn to Judaism.
But his relationship or attraction to Judaism might have been a bit problematic.
And that was because he was, again, a eunuch.
Castrated males were not allowed access to the Temple.
So, this man from Ethiopia is an “outsider” when it comes to the God he seeks…
…or rather, the religious system he seeks since Acts Chapter 8 makes it quite clear that God is seeking him something fierce!!!
And we know this because the Holy Spirit “told Philip, ‘Approach his carriage and stay with it.’”
So jogging alongside the chariot, Philip hears the Eunuch reading aloud.
And at that time in history the custom was that people read aloud.
It wasn’t until monasteries developed in the 300’s, that reading silently became the norm.
So this outcast, this marginalized person…
“He was despised and avoided by others; a man who suffered…
…Like someone from whom people hide their faces, he was despised…
…He was pierced…
…he was oppressed and tormented.”
Perhaps the eunuch wondered if this passage was speaking about him or about someone like him; it sounded all too familiar.