Phillip, the Eunuch and How God works in Mission

Reading - Acts 8:26-end

May I speak in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

When I was training to be ordained, I had the opportunity to spend some time in a church in Stockton. It is a very evangelical church, there was a band at the front and fairly typical for that particular tradition, and it was a good place to worship each week. What set it apart was that it had a huge community of around 200 asylum seekers as committed members of the church, mainly from Iran who had come to faith. It was as close as I have come to being in a church in the time of Acts, right at the start of the history of our faith, because here were people who had come to know Jesus and were blown away by the joy and freedom of Christ. One particular day I had been invited to preach and we were looking at how Jesus had healed a man who was born blind. The passage started by an onlooker questioning Jesus and asking was the man born blind because of the sins of his parents or his own sins? Now I forget what my sermon was about, but I had this throw away line right at the beginning ‘Its just worth saying that the man wasn’t blind because of his sin or his parents, his blindness was no one’s fault’. At the end of the service, some of the Iranian members of the congregation grabbed me and said, please you must pray with this man. At the front of church, a man was crying and surrounded by people praying. He explained that he had walked into church for the first time just as I had begun preaching and had heard me explain that the man’s blindness was no one’s fault. You see, it had hit him right between the eyes, because he had spent a life blaming himself for his own daughter’s blindness, and there he was, at the front of church, receiving the forgiveness and love of God.



You see that small throw away comment had been how God had communicated to that man at that time. Forget the rest of what I considered at the time, a finely crafted sermon, it had been that little throwaway line that God had taken for His glory, where God in His wisdom had lined up all the little things to bring this man to Him.

In our reading from Acts, we hear of another seemingly random encounter between Phillip and an Ethiopian Eunuch. Phillip is led to travel a road of wilderness – hardly good missional territory by anyone’s standard but faithfully does so. Along the way he meets a eunuch reading Isaiah who asks Phillip to explain what he is hearing. You see, the Eunuch is in Jerusalem to worship, he is searching for God, but it is probably no surprise that he doesn’t understand what he is reading. You see, Eunuchs, according to the Jewish laws are not allowed to be accepted by the people. More than that he is a gentile, so in the eyes of many at that time, is entirely outcast. So, he may have gone to the holy city but no one was there to explain anything until he comes across Phillip.

It just so happens that the Eunuch is reading Isaiah 53, the suffering servant, perhaps the clearest overview of Jesus’ life you can read in the Bible, written some 800 years before Jesus was born. In fact, it is so clearly Jesus’ life, that we have studied it for the confirmation course. So, Phillip, who was sent there to be approach the eunuch at exactly at the right time and the right place, ends up sharing the gospel and baptising the man. The Ethiopian church, one of the most ancient churches in the world, still goes strong to this day. Phillip is whisked away, and we hear that he continues to preach wherever he goes.

Many people in our church wonder if what they do is enough for God. I have heard people saying I can only do x, I am not doing enough. Or I have these limitations so therefore I can only do y. Or I’m too old. Or whatever. But I want to encourage you this morning, because folks God doesn’t require your particular skill set or your good health or energy. He after all, created the universe, he doesn’t need us. Yet in His glorious wisdom He shares His work with us. Look at the story of Phillip. Phillip did no planning for his encounter, God arranged it. All Phillip did was follow instructions. God didn’t require anything from Phillip other than to do as he was asked. Notice too that it was hardly what people might view as fertile ground – a wilderness road to nowhere in particular. Finally, the person he got to share the gospel with wasn’t someone whom he would have expected to share the gospel with. It was a gentile and more than that a gentile considered unworthy of being loved by God.

I want to tell you that radical thing that not many vicars say. Don’t do any more than you have to – simply be obedient to Christ. You see, even the little off hand things we offer, we may deem small and unworthy, yet God can take that and changes someone's life forever, just as the eunuchs life was changed, just as the man who heard my throwaway line, life changed. Offer what you can, what you are called for. It doesn’t matter if that is big or small, because God can bless the whole world in profound ways from the smallest of starts. Follow God and see how he helps you shar His good news with all. Amen

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