Thank you so much for the extraordinary welcome that was extended to my family last Sunday! It was a phenomenal celebration, and it was exciting to meet so many new faces. I’ve heard from more than a couple of you about how fun it was to reconnect with old friends and see new faces as well. It’s a great time to be part of Peachtree City UMC!
I shared with you last Sunday from the first half of Acts 8, but the latter half of the same chapter has historically received far more attention. We hear a second story about Philip, who’s ministry in Samaria comes to an end when he is called by the Lord to “go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza” (Acts 8:26). Along the road, Philip encounters an Ethiopian eunuch who asks Philip to guide him into an understanding of the scriptures he was reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip accepts the Ethiopian’s invitation, and shares the meaning of the prophet’s words and the story of Jesus so powerfully that the Spirit moves the Ethiopian to be baptized. (I hope you’ll take the opportunity to read the story for yourself: Acts 8:26-40)
I love this story as a follow-up to Philip’s ministry in Samaria! It has a fascinating way of highlighting many of the same themes that we hear in the first half of this chapter: Philip’s willingness to go where God sends him, his eagerness to reach people that others have written off (eunuch’s were generally thought to be excluded from the Kingdom of God because of their physical injuries), the Spirit’s unexpected movement in the lives of people who are otherwise discounted. I love that just as the Ethiopian was on the road to his home (the road to Gaza led to an international trade highway that travelled through Egypt and on to Ethiopia), the Spirit used Philip to bring the Ethiopian ‘home’ to the Father.
Philip provides a beautiful image of discipleship that is every bit as relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago: Hear the word of God; Go where God sends you; See those in need; Respond to their need; Share the story of Jesus; Get out of the way!