Narrative Lectionary Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year 3, May 7, ,2017
Lessons: Acts 8:26-39, Luke 24:44-47
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people understand that God calls us to proclaim the Good News, often in unusual ways, unexpected places, and to unlikely people.
Key Scripture: Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. Acts 8:35
What are we to make of this unlikely story, and whatever in the world does it have to do with stewardship? To answer the first part of the question first, we can make a lot of and learn mucb from this simple vignette. The event happens in the midst of a ministry whirlwind between the stoning of Stephen (chapter seven) and the conversion of Saul (chapter nine). Chapter eight details the difficulties and persecution beset upon the early church and its leaders, the continued preaching and sharing of the gospel in Samaria (of all places), and of course, more controversy. Next an angel instructs the deacon Philip to go to a certain desert road between Jerusalem and Gaza. He goes, and the angel instructs him to run up to a wealthy person’s chariot. The good deacon does so, and he encounters a wealthy eunuch reading from the scroll of Isaiah. It’s an unlikely collision of two people that happens in an even more unlikely place and way.
But isn’t that how life and faith work? Most people I know don’t have a straight and simple faith story. It may seem pretty straightforward as it’s happening, but in looking back over the course of one’s journey, it becomes clear that God intervenes, shows up, and definitely isn’t some static sterile pie-in-the sky deity. Would you, for example, be the person you are today if certain people, places, and events hadn’t been a part of your story? Granted, I suspect very few of us will experience an angel telling us to go run alongside a limousine to share the faith, but have you ever had an urge that told you to contact someone right then and there or had a random encounter with a stranger that made a real difference?
Perhaps a better question is this one: Are you ready, really ready, to let God use you and your gifts and talents for the sake of the world? Not everyone is called to be a deacon like Philip or Stephen. Very few of us will experience a radical Damascus road change like Saul. But we can say yes to God’s movement and bidding in our lives, however that might manifest itself. It could mean a change of vocation, responding to a call to serve God in ministry. It might mean learning to share the good news and interpret scripture for coworkers in the office or strangers on the train. Maybe it could be as simple as opening your home to your neighbors for dinner and conversation.
A point worth taking from this lesson is that nothing, especially not you and not me, will prevent God from reaching the people God wills to reach, and from restoring and renewing this beautiful broken world. God’s work is creative and messy. It’s rarely linear, and it’s usually surprising. So get ready for a wild rumpus of a ride. Go ahead and respond to those urgings and Spirit-nudges. God may be calling you to reach out and make a difference. Someone may be waiting for you to come alongside him or her and make things clear by the grace of God and the work of the Spirit. Don’t fret. Don’t resist. Just do it. Lean in and listen to God’s call.
Celebrate today with and Affirmation of Baptism and be sure to splash lots of water. Remind people that nothing prevents God from reaching the people God wants to reach. As God’s named and claimed beloved and gathered community, we will be strengthened at Christ’s table and sent into the world like Philip and the first disciples. We don’t know who we might touch, whose lives might be changed through a chance interaction, whose path might be altered because of God working through our hands, feet, and voices. Consider writing a litany of sending to prepare congregants to be ready for God to use them in unexpected ways, in many places, and with unlikely folks.
Invite your youth to consider the people who have made a difference in their faith walks. It might be parents, grandparents, a pastor or youth leader, a Sunday school teacher, or a beloved senior saint in the congregation. It might also be a peer or famous disciple/leader like Pope Francis. Ask youth who was helped them understand scripture and learn about Jesus. Invite them to consider how they might begin to allow God to use them to help others learn about God. Perhaps they can mentor younger children in the congregation. Maybe they can introduce peers to the way Christ can make life meaningful. Consider showing them this short film about Shane Claiborne of The Simple Way and how he and his friends moved into the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia to try to make a difference and share Christ’s love as neighbors.
Giving Thanks for Teachers
In today’s lesson, Philip asks the Eunuch if he understands the scripture he is reading. The Eunuch replies, “How can I know unless someone explains it to me?”
The same goes for us today. The Bible is a big book filled with lots of stories about the faith and people God loves, about how God works in the world, and about how much God loves us. How can we understand unless people explain it to us? Tell the children about someone who explained the story of Jesus to you. If you have a picture of that person, show it to the children. Ask them to point out people in the congregation who help them learn about Jesus. Ask them to stand up or come forward to join the children. Then invite all the Christian education teachers to come forward. Invite parents, deacons, and youth workers to come forward. Remind the children that it takes a great cloud of witnesses to pass on the faith. Finish with a prayer of thanksgiving for the teachers in our lives who share the Good News of Jesus.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
This week’s lesson from Acts about Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch reminds us that as stewards of the faith and disciples of Jesus, we will be called upon to share the gospel in in unusual ways, unexpected places, and with unlikely people. What we know for certain is that God’s will to name, claim and redeem is not limited by our inability to see. Pray this week for vision and clarity to see and respond to God’s will for your life, for our congregation, so that we may steward our time, talent, and resources in ways that are pleasing and useful to our Lord.
Stewardship at Home
This week take time to write thank you notes to the people who have made a difference in your faith life. Whether it’s the pastor who confirmed you, or your kindergarten Sunday school teacher, your parent or that saintly neighbor who never forgot to remind you that God loves you—no matter who or how many people who have helped share God’s love and message with you—be sure to tell them thank you this week. Then ask God to open your heart, hands, and will to share the good news with others. Don’t be surprised where God may lead you!
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