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Philip the Evangelist (Insert Sunday 3rd May, 2015)

Lismore Anglican Parish Bulletin Insert – Sunday 3rd May 2015, Easter 5

Philip the EvangelistActs 8:26-40, 1 John 4:7-21, John 15:1-8

 

If you like evangelism, you’ll love Philip’s story. A Spirit-led meeting with a court official, who happens to be reading Isaiah 53 and asking the right questions; there is time to converse at leisure; there is water for baptism when required and requested.

The Ethiopian eunuch was a gentile God-fearer. He couldn’t have been a proselyte as eunuchs were disqualified. He had been to Jerusalem to worship Israel’s God, and he wouldn’t have been able to celebrate the festival. Physically unfit, ritually excluded; all that way and no entrance ticket was granted him upon arrival. He could have prayed at a distance but that was it. And yet Israel’s God still so captivates him that he is reading Isaiah on the way home.

There were two traditions of reading Isaiah 53 at the time. One saw the servant as the Messiah, but the sufferings were what he inflicted on the pagans. The other saw the servant as the righteous martyrs, but they weren’t Messiahs. Philip puts them together, and embodies the result, announcing to the eunuch that in Jesus Israel’s God has revealed his universal welcome, and showing him by his own welcome what that servant-love looks like. Suddenly, the Ethiopian’s physical, social and cultural exclusion is overturned. He is embraced by the God who is revealed in the crucified Jesus, and welcomed gladly by the evangelist who represents his master. And (of course) he goes on his way rejoicing.

Result: a new branch is added to the vine, ‘made clean’, as Jesus says, ‘by the word that has been spoken to you’. The vine was a symbol of Israel, pruned and kept pure by the God-given cultic practices and its symbolism. But the crucified and risen Jesus is now the true vine; the new symbols – the empty cross, the empty tomb – speak of a different sort of cleansing, a dealing with sin and death (two of the main pollutants in the Temple system) once and for all, a free welcome of overflowing love for all who hear and receive. New branch, new life, new responsibilities, new power. If the Ethiopian Church is to be believed, the eunuch went home and bore fruit that last till this day.

 

(Adapted from Twelve Months of Sunday’s – Year B: Biblical meditations on the Christian Year, by Tom Wright, page 62-3).

 

 

 Acts 8:26-40 – 26 Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) 27 So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” 30 So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. 32 Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:                                                                                                    “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
so he does not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”                                                      34 The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 36 As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” 38 He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

John 15:1-8 – 15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.