(It's possible that this sermon was preached while I was dressed in a beard and robe) Good morning. My name is Philip. And, well, God sent me here to tell you my story.
It’s been quite a journey since I decided to follow Jesus –
So much has happened.
pretty early on – I was commissioned and called to serve as a deacon – and I did a lot of work caring for the widows and making sure that people in our community had what they needed.
But then, our community really began to experience persecution – I was there to watch Saul and the roman authorities stone my friend Stephen and after that – people just didn’t feel safe in Jerusalem. And so we decided to scatter.
No one really wanted to go up to Samaria. So I volunteered.
My wife and daughters weren’t thrilled with that – but we’ve made it work.
And since then I’ve been popping around from place to place –
I guess I’ve kind of become a sort of evangelist -
Going wherever the Spirit seems to lead.
It’s a bit out of my comfort zone
But I’ve learned so much.
And I understand you – also – are on a journey of sorts trying to grow in your own faith -
And so I want to tell you a story today of one of the moments where my faith was stretched and challenged and where I learned a lot about what it really means to be a disciple. It was actually a person I met -
All from a Eunuch from Ethiopia.
Well, it all started when I was still up in Samaria. And one day, an angel of the Lord appeared and told me – it was time to go down to the road from Jerusalem to Gaza.
Now, I don’t know how many of you have been visited by an angel of the Lord – but it’s a little intimidating. This was my first time – and as nervous and uncertain as I felt – I knew I had to go.
Now, the road between Jerusalem and Gaza is a desertous, dusty road. Not much there. And it seemed like a strange place to be sent. So, I left my family in Samaria and off I went. As I’m traveling down this road, I see this chariot heading away from Jerusalem. I hear another nudge from the Spirit – that I need to go up close to this chariot – so I do – and let me tell you the sight I saw.
First of all, this was a nice chariot. As I got closer I realized this was a chariot from Ethiopia, obviously one of Queen Candace’s – it was surrounded by her guards and servants. And inside. Sitting in the chariot was one of her higher ranking officials – And he was – well, he was a Eunuch.
I’m not sure you know what that is – but, well –
Where I’m from – eunuchs aren’t too uncommon – in fact there are lots of young men who are dedicated to a life a service at a very young age.
And just to be sure that they will be committed and dedicated to the service of the king or queen –
Let’s just say – they have some surgical procedures done removing certain anatomical parts of their bodies.
It’s a form of slavery – but everyone is so used to it – that we don’t always think about it that way.
But there he was – this eunuch.
And I couldn’t believe it – but he was sitting there reading the prophet Isaiah.
And not just any part of Isaiah –
“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter – like a lamb silent before his shearer…”
You know those moments where you are like – OK God, I get it now.
This was one of those. He’s sitting there in the chariot – by himself, reading the passage of Isaiah – that is talking about Jesus.
I knew what I needed to do.
So I just asked him – “Do you know what you are reading?”
He turned around and saw me – and had a smile on his face.
“How can I unless someone guides me?”
He invited me to get in the carriage with him.
And we start talking. I share with him about jesus. I give him the whole story. And he shared with me his. It turns out he had been to Jerusalem just then – he had gone there to worship.
I found it amazing that he would want to do that – I mean first of all, he isn’t Jewish. And second of all – he’s a eunuch. He isn’t even allowed to come into the inner places of worship – no eunuchs were. I never liked that rule myself – but he was excluded from much of what the temple had to offer because of what had been done to him – and yet he had still come.
It was obvious to me – that this man had faith. He didn’t really understand it. He didn’t know much about God or about Scripture. But something in him had led him to have faith. He was hungry. He was open to learn more.
As I was telling him about Jesus – he was getting more and more excited. It was like all the dots were connecting for him. And then he asked the question –
What would prevent me from getting baptized?
Now – it was a loaded question – because he knew that actually there were lots of things.
First of all, the practical – we were in the desert. There was no water. So – location was a problem.
But second of all, he was a eunuch and He wasn’t Jewish. I mean – let’s be honest. I was already the black sheep of the church for going up and including all the Samaritans -
What would people say if I was baptizing an Ethiopian eunuch?
But just after he asked the question – I looked out of the chariot and there was a pool of water.
I can’t explain it. Because we were in the middle of the desert. But I knew it was a sign. This man was clearly opening himself up to know God and follow God – and so I needed to be open as well.
So I baptized him – it was the right thing to do. I knew it was.
And then before I knew it – God whisked me away to Azotus. And I was gone.
I’ve never forgotten that eunuch. In fact, everywhere I go – I tell his story.
People want to know what it means to be a follower of Jesus –
I tell them – you should be like this eunuch.
Without teaching and knowledge of God, he had gone and worshipped.
Without understanding of the Scriptures, he had read them anyway.
And without even being included in the community, he was open to knowledge and He wasn’t afraid to follow the way the Spirit was working in his heart.
I think the eunuch probably thought he would learn what he was seeking at the temple. I think he thought that he might be able to hear it from a person of authority – to help him understand. But instead it was from an ordinary, everyday Jewish man who he met in the middle of nowhere – who helped make God real to him.
And you know –
It wasn’t until this encounter on the road that I began to see how vast and deep Christ’s love is for all people – and how big the story is that God is writing in the world.
I couldn’t really see it – until I met this eunuch.
But after that day -
I knew I needed to be OPEN to all that God had to teach me. Every day.
You know I don’t even remember his name.
So – as you begin your own journey as followers of Jesus – seeking to grow in your faith – seeking to grow in knowledge.
If there is one piece of wisdom and advice I have for you my brothers and sisters – it is to be OPEN.
Open to the things you do not yet know.
Open to surprising things that God may speak to you and to your heart.
And open to the fact that God will likely reveal things to you in some unexpected places and through some unexpected people.
Be open – for you don’t know what you might find.
Or where you might go.
May God Bless you and keep you.