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5th Sunday of Easter - May 2, 2021

Updated: Jul 7, 2021

Good morning St Andrew’s here and online with us!

When I was a little girl, about kindergarten age, a friend started taking me to church. Her name was Billa. She was this tall, always wore pleaded skirts and sensible shoes, and her hair was carefully put on rollers every night. Her skin was like paper and she always smelled of mothballs. Her light brown eyes crinkled when she laughed. And she laughed a lot. She made daily rounds to visit her friends and I was lucky that one of them was my beloved grandmother. Billa had lost her husband a long time ago and never remarried. She did not have any children or grandchildren. I of course was more than willing to let her spoil me with attention and sweets instead. After church services were over, we would always visit her late husband Michael’s grave. We would tend to the flowerbed that is customary on a German gravesite and pray for the repose of his soul. I still remember the sound of her reedy voice singing the hymns in church. I remember fetching the watering can from behind the little fountain and filling it, to water the flowers on Michael’s grave. I remember murmured prayers and the occasional tear. I treasure the memory of these calm and peaceful Sunday mornings and I thank God for the ministry of Billa. She showed up and shared her faith with me, and I think it is fair to say that it made a lasting impression…

Billa shared her faith. She did not use big theological words. She did not quote scripture. She did not prepare a lesson plan in advance. Don’t get me wrong, I happen to really enjoy big theological words, scripture, and lessons plans. But Billa, she simply showed up and shared her faith. I hope my words make it clear how much I loved this woman. Everyone needs and deserves a Billa in their life. Someone who shows up and shares their faith.

And that is exactly what Phillip did in our reading of the Acts of the Apostles today. Phillip showed up and he shared his faith. The Eunuch, on his way back home from worshipping in Jerusalem was sitting in his chariot. We know it must have been an impressive vehicle as he held the very prestigious title of chief treasurer at the court of his queen in Ethiopia. In his chariot he read to himself out loud as was customary in antiquity. He read from the book of Isaiah. Phillip overheard this and the Spirit moved him to show up and share his faith. They must have made quite the sight. The Eunuch who lived in luxury and held great political power and Phillip, an itinerant preacher who owned little more than the clothes on his back. There they are sitting together in this flashy chariot drawn by the best horses money can buy. The Eunuch in opulent, rich clothes, and Phillip in a tunic and sandals dusty from the road. One smelled of expensive oils, the other of sweat. Can you picture it? And yet in this exchange it is the Eunuch who defers to Phillip. See, no matter his political power and wealth, in Jerusalem the Eunuch was the outsider. He went there to worship but still he would not have been welcomed inside the temple. When Phillip asked him: “Do you understand what you are reading?”, the only answer he could give was: “How can I, unless someone guides me?” No one had shown up yet, no one had shared their faith with him yet. Until Phillip was moved by the Spirit to do so. And the Eunuch, whose name we never learn, is eager for knowledge. Scripture tells us that the Eunuch reads the prophet Isaiah’s description of the perfect sacrifice. And he has a question: “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” This opens the door for Phillip to introduce the Eunuch to this new Jewish sect and their knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We can only imagine this part of the conversation as scripture doesn’t reveal it to us. I envision Phillip explaining to him that with Jesus, no one is an outsider, not even the Eunuch from Ethiopia. That with Jesus, God’s love is revealed in our daily actions towards one another. That with Jesus, we all of us get to have a seat at the table. We do know he mentioned baptism as a rite of passage for new Christians because upon hearing about this Jesus, the Eunuch gets excited and his enthusiasm for this newfound faith is palpable when he says: “Look, there is water! What is to prevent me from getting baptized?” I can see the luxurious chariot driving by a body of water at this time, maybe a lake, maybe a river? I imagine the Eunuch looking out at the landscape passing by, pointing with a bejeweled finger to the water and I imagine his face lighting up. Can you not just hear the excitement in his voice? The enthusiasm in his demand for immediate action? “Look, there is water!” He almost sounds thirsty, doesn’t he? Like someone who has wandered the wilderness a long time and finally comes upon an oasis. Phillip, moved by the Spirit, showed up and shared his faith, and now the Eunuch is ready! Ready for action, ready to be baptized, ready to embrace a new path, a new journey towards God, he is ready to start his relationship with Jesus, he is ready for the water he’s been thirsting for and he is ready now! I think it is no coincidence that they were reading Isaiah together, because just like Isaiah, our Eunuch is willing and ready upon receiving word from God. That is a powerful message from our text today. “Look, there is water. Who is to prevent me from getting baptized?” We do not hear from him again after this story, but I like to imagine that he takes this energy and enthusiasm back home with him and there he shows up and he shares his faith.

Next week we here at St Andrew’s will have an important visitor show up and share his faith with us. As you probably know by now, I am a little bit excited about the bishop’s visit. But I’m excited for so many reasons. Next Sunday the bishop will confirm 12 people in this church. 12 people who are excited, who are ready, they waited over a year for this! They bring with them the fresh energy of new enthusiasm for our faith. And that’s not all, today we are having formation in person again here at St Andrews. Today we are enjoying breakfast ministry again. We are inching closer and closer to a new “normal” with every Sunday and next Sunday will be the first visit of our bishop! Can you feel the energy? The excitement in the air? The forward momentum that is propelling us is as palpable as the Eunuch’s excitement: “Look, there is water!” We are within sight of our oasis. To step into this story all we have to do is show up. All we have to do is share our faith. And there are so many different ways to do this. We can invite someone to join us for Sunday Services like my friend and neighbor Billa did for me. We can welcome our new visitors or browse the many different ministries we have here at St Andrew’s and sign up for one. Last week Jared spoke to us about spending just 20 minutes with our children’s ministry. And here is some more good news, it does not stop within these walls. The movement is much too big for a building, even a building as filled with love as this one is. We can take this energy, this momentum out there with us. To echo the Eunuch’s question: “Who is to stop us?” We can listen to a friend in need or join a meal-train and bring food to a sick person. We can spend some quality time with a grumpy teenager. Or, if you are a teenager, spend some time with a grumpy adult. We can watch someone’s children while their parents enjoy a night off or speak softly of God’s love to someone in mourning. The possibilities are endless. Who is to stop us? Just like my friend Billa, we don’t need to use big theological words. We don’t need to be able to quote scripture. We don’t need to prepare a lesson plan. Let the Spirit move you like it moved Phillip and Billa: show up and share your faith.

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