Sermon for May 2, 2021
Based on John 15:1-8
One of the passages suggested for today by the Revised Common Lectionary is from the Acts of the Apostles and tells the story of Philip baptizing an Ethiopian Eunuch. It was not included in today’s readings initially as I thought I was going in a different direction. But I later found it did apply.
It is a powerful story invitation and celebration of humanity. It is a story with a message of how Jesus reaches beyond the boundaries assumed by others. That when Christ’s love and invitation are offered, we best not get in the way but let the spirit move us in ways of love and compassion.
That is why after a conversation about the way God has worked in the world and continues to work in the world and how we can find the promise of hope and Christ alive in those words, a eunuch and Philip are moved to an act of baptism using a pool of water at the side of a road.
There is no catechism. There is no judgment around the suitability of a eunuch or his understanding of doctrine. Philip sees someone who desires to be part of the body of Christ. He sees someone seeking a deeper relationship with God. Philip sees someone who he is connected to through Jesus the Christ, and he is moved to welcome him into a deeper relationship.
Why is it we desire a world of justice? Why is it we are compelled to love one another? That we are motivated to care for one another?
Is it out of some belief that that is necessary to receive a reward upon our death?
Or is there something else involved, some other compulsion?
I want to believe we are pulled by something beyond a reward versus punishment ethic.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks of love. But not a love based on some sense of transaction. Not a love with conditions attached to it or some form of expectation. It is a love based on the desire to see humanity reach a greater sense of being; a greater relationship with our creator God.
As I’ve pointed out several times in the past, the Gospel of John sees Jesus use a number of metaphors to describe himself. Last week he called himself that Good Shepherd. Jesus is the bread and the cup, the living water. And here, Jesus is the vine that God the gardener tends to produce abundant fruit.
We are the branches growing out of Jesus the vine. We are connected to Jesus, we find life and meaning through the love and nourishment he provides.
And we are connected to one another through Jesus. If Jesus the Christ is the revelation of God’s love, we abide in that love. And we experience Jesus at work in us and through us.
But we are also connected. We are part of something so much bigger than our own individual lives.
I think we all know that on some instinctive level. We know that when we work for the good of one another and our community, we find a greater sense of fulfillment. We know we are moving toward something far more meaningful.
We often speak of our blessings. And we have reflected on the notion that we are blessed so that we may be a blessing for others. God’s love is abundant and the blessings we receive through our relationship with God are also abundant. They are not something we are called to hold on to tightly for fear of losing them. We are called to share these with the world. Through our love and the love of Christ abiding in us, we produce even greater blessings for all the world. Can we possibly believe that God the gardener is stock piling the fruit we produce for some rainy day?
That which we produce through Christ is for this world right now.
We are connected. Over the past year we should have learned that that connection is far more than metaphysical. A virus has proven how tightly we are connected. That virus travelled around the world, mutated into a variety of strains and has impacted the entire world to one extent or another. No matter how hard various countries around the world have worked to secure their borders, and admittedly some have had a measure of success, we have witnessed how interconnected we are.
And one of the lessons of that should also be that we must share. Whether it is resources, knowledge, or a vaccine, we must share.
It is for all our welfare. We can be horrified at the scenes of the spread of Covid in India. Our hearts may break, but we cannot sit and think that is sad, but it is only the concern of people on the other side of the world.
We are tied together in this and we must act as such.
Jesus challenges us to consider how we view and experience the world around us. If we see the world abiding in Christ’s love, how are we moved?
Philip did not look on this man from another country and say, I am sorry, but Jesus is only for my people. Philip recognized that through Christ he was connected to this man from another country. A man he held little in common with, except a love of God and a love for all of humanity. Connected by the Christ who abided in them.
May we witness the presence of Jesus the Christ abiding in each and every one of us. May we experience Christ’s love at work in us, and through us and share that love and that care for all the world.
Thanks be to God.
Music provided with permission through licensing with CCLI License number
2701258 and One License # A-731789