April 21, 2013 – First Baptist Church Edmonton – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato
“Bearing the Good News: Go, Sit, Speak”
Last week we started the final chapter of the GodStory…the NPoG…The NEW People of God! What’s so new about the new people of God?
– A living, risen Jesus
– Holy Spirit…unleashed!
– Things were getting out of control…Jerusalem Jewish leaders were losing control of this new movement!
– Other ideas? ?
This was pretty radical! Do we still believe the Spirit is doing new things? Working in new ways?
APB everyone! WE are the ongoing story of the NPoG. . .
This week, we’re back on the road with Luke as our Narrator…in the weeks since Easter we’ve run back and forth on the road from the locked, upper room of the disciples and the empty tomb of Jesus….we’ve been on the road with the bewildered disciples near Emmaus and last week we hunkered down in Jerusalem and witnessed the genesis of the church…it was full of energy and enthusiasm in Jerusalem and then the religious leaders got mad when Stephen and the early church zealots started talking about an “innovation”…. This living Jesus who had died at the hands of the religious and political leaders was alive…and his living presence was literally blowing the doors off of the temple…and blowing the dust off of religious writings/rules/regulations!
And the Jewish faithful…devoted religious leaders like Saul, we’re doing their best to squash this renegade entourage of Christ-followers. We read at the end of last week’s GodStory (Acts 8) that:
“Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women and committing them to prison” (8:3).
We also read that “those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word” (8:4). Here’s where we get introduced to today’s “deacon of the day” Philip and we’re “on the road again”…
Philip was chosen as one of the 7 deacons of the early church who was full of the spirit and wisdom. He served the poor and needy in the early church while the Apostles preached and prayed their way through Jerusalem. But…like Stephen, he was both a servant and a preacher…and when things got crazy in Jerusalem, when Stephen was killed by the religious leaders and Saul and his cronies were dragging people to prison, Philip and his fellow deacons left the city and began proclaiming the good news of a living Jesus to those beyond the boundaries of Jerusalem.
They started to fulfill the prophetic words of Acts 1:8 – – “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
In the midst of preaching and proclaiming in Samaria, Philip is visited by an angel and sent on a rural road trip. He’s to go 80 km south of Samaria to spend some time on a 20 km stretch of wilderness road that leads from Jerusalem to an outlying city called Gaza.
May God bless our imaginations as we dwell in the world of today’s story…
Imagine yourself jogging….it’s like God has sent you or me on 97 street straight north of the city and said….just “go”… I’ve got something new to teach you…
First off….would you go?
Imagine that you’ve actually decided to slow your life down for 1 day….and say yes. It’s a warm day in spring and you start jogging…
How does it feel to leave the hubbub of the city, to get a chance to breathe in some fresher air….to let your mind wander a bit…to realize that no one’s trying to track you down – – no appointments – – no un-opened “bold font” email titles beckoning your from your inbox…there’s no tyranny of the urgent….you’ve left your cellphone behind and all you’ve got is a water bottle strapped on your back and the open road before you… how do you feel?
As Philip jogs down this dusty rural road he sees a fancy chariot a couple of kilometers in the distance. It’s been a long time since he’s seen a royal chariot and he’s curious to see who’s in it…The Spirit speaks to his heart:
“GO… and join the chariot.” He runs faster and harder and within 3-4 minutes he’s come upon the chariot and can see who’s inside…
Well, it’s not the queen…and it’s not a prince…but it’s one of the queen’s court officials – – in charge of the finances of the queen – – and it seems he’s just been at a Jerusalem worship service and is on his way home for an afternoon nap before another busy workweek begins.
Philip recognizes that he is an Ethiopian (very dark skinned) and a Eunuch (he’s dressed in lavish, beautifully embroidered garments…he’s on staff with the queen…and he’s inner/upper court staff and if you’re a male, then one of the pre-requisites for the job is emasculation! Ouch!)
Philip also recognizes what he’s reading! With a stack of parchment papers on his lap, he’s reading aloud the words of the prophets…and Philip being the keener that he is, quickly recognizes it’s from the prophet Isaiah.
He hears the Eunuch speaking: “like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, like a lamb before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth…
In his humiliation justice is denied him…his life is taken away from the earth.”
* * don’t forget Philip is still jogging ! ! * *
Fitsum…the Ethiopian looks at this strange sight…a jogging jewish man staring in through his chariot window…
Their eyes meet…Philip, with his face full of the God’s grace and power (it wasn’t just the sweat!) says: “Do…you….understand…what you are reading?”
Fitsum replies: “How can I unless someone guides me? Get in and sit with me!”
[I imagine the ghost/voice of “Christmas Present” don’t you… “come in and know me better man!”]
Philip catches his breath and listens…
“This sheep being led to the slaughter…silent…humiliated…denied justice and taken away from the earth…is this about the prophet Isaiah or is it about another prophet who is to come?”
Philip replies: “It’s about the prophet who is to come…the one who has come ….Jesus, the Christ!”
And like his Emmaus friends from 2 months earlier, Philip tells of Jesus…
“Jesus of Nazareth, a prophet mighty in word and deed…our chief priests handed him over to be condemned to death and they crucified him…we had hoped that he would be the one to redeem Israel…and he did! Everything written about Jesus in the law of Moses and the prophets and the Psalms has been fulfilled! Our Messiah suffered, rose from the dead on the third day and now REPENTANCE and FORGIVENESS OF SINS is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations beginning from Jerusalem.”
And Jesus’ final words to us, before the coming of the Holy Spirit, were like this:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me…Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…teaching them to obey…and remember…I am with you – – always.”
Fitsum and Philip ride in silence for a few kilometers…they come upon a large pool of standing water…bright blue…sparkling in the afternoon sunshine….
“Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?”
What is to prevent you?
Philip thinks to himself… “good question! I’ve yet to baptize a court official of the queen!?”
Philip’s mind darts to a multitude of thoughts that are borne out of his good Jewish devotion and religious training…you know…respect for Yahweh’s reputation and all…several thoughts flash through his mind…
– You’re not ready!
– You need more training!
– You’re an outsider! You really ought to live closer to the centre of Jewish worship!
– You really should officially denounce your loyalty to the queen…shouldn’t you?
– How can I be sure that you really mean it?
– You need to be more like me! I had to work hard to get on this inside track of religious understanding!
– You’re a eunuch….How would you, uh, even, uuh, get circumcised and be a good Jewish convert like me? No offense of course…I know you really didn’t have a choice in it… You’re not…a whole person…you know what I mean? You wouldn’t ever be able to have a real, full, satisfying worship life!
[ that’s just what he thought! ]
Um….well…..We can’t baptize you…yet….I need to check with the religious authorities…I just wanna make sure there aren’t any synagogue bylaw that were crossing over…and the Jerusalem council only meets once a month so I’d have to get it on the next agenda and that’s still a few weeks a – – –
Suddenly a light from heaven flashes around him…(see Acts 9:3) Philip hears a voice saying….
“This is my beloved…in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17; Luke 9:35)
Fitsum asks Philip again… “What is to prevent me from being baptized?”
“Absolutely nothing” whispers the Spirit…
“Absolutely nothing” declares Philip (did I really say that!?).
[And this is part that Baptists love!]
“And both of them, Philip and the eunuch went down into the water…and when they came UP OUT of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away.
Fitsum saw him no more…but he didn’t mind…He had what he’d come for and went on down the road rejoicing.
– – – PAUSE – – –
New People of God! FBC Edmonton!
We’ve got a story to tell to the nations…
We’ve got good news to share with those who have spent too many years of their lives on the outside looking in…the spiritual but not religious; the ostracized; the demeaned; the marginalized; the poor in spirit…
GO! Sit with them.
Speak of the invitation and forgiveness of God!
Let them make the “big ask”. . .
And when they do…let nothing, absolutely nothing…keep them from meeting, embracing, following and obeying our Risen Living Lord.