Acts 8:26-31, 35

There are people everywhere who are longing to hear the good news and unless there are people to explain it, to share it with them they will not hear it and their lives will not be transformed and given over to Christ.  We are each called to be that someone.

 Introduction…

A long time ago a young boy in a faraway place was looking for something more in life.  He wasn’t sure what it was he was searching for but whatever it was it had something to do with his spirit, a deeper purpose in life and a sense of belonging.

The boy went to many churches but none of them seemed to even know he was there let alone offer something in response to what he was searching for.  One Sunday he wandered into the back of a small church where he sat down, alone on a pew two thirds of the way back from the front.  An elderly man sat down next to him and took an interest in him.  The elderly man reached out and engaged the young boy in conversation, nothing terribly deep, nothing earth shattering.  They just talked and listened to one another.

He didn’t know it and he probably didn’t have any great sense of it but by seeing the young boy, by reaching out and talking to the boy and by engaging the boy in conversation the old man had sown the seeds of a long, gradual but steady process by which the young boy would end up making a confession of faith in Jesus, joining the church and eventually living out the rest of his life in the church.

I know this story because I was the young boy.  Chester probably wasn’t all that “old” at the time but to a 16 year old boy searching for meaning somewhere, anywhere he seemed like an old man.

The ages of the boy and the man didn’t really matter, nor does their theology or which church they were part of or any one of the dozens of details that seem to be relevant.  What matters is the story itself.

We are all searching for meaning.  We all need to see and to be seen.   We are all hungry for food of the spirit, we are all thirsty for water for the soul.   We all need connections to a community to which we can belong and find a place.  We all need someone to “explain it”, not just once but over and over in different ways and in different venues; “it” being the good news of life in Jesus Christ.

  1. The Scripture…

Philip and the Ethiopian

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian[a] eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

Acts 8:26-40 New International Version (NIV)

In the book of Acts, written around 90 to 100 A.D., Luke tells us of the spread of good news to non-Jews in the Middle East and eventually all over the world.

He had just finished telling about the spread of the gospel to the Samaritans and now he tells us of the conversion of yet another outcast, a eunuch. (Per Deuteronomy 23:1, a eunuch could not be admitted to the assembly of the Lord. The eunuch is from Ethiopia.)

The “angel” is essentially an agent of the Lord of some sort that leads Philip to Gaza down this wilderness road. He comes across this eunuch, who was the financial officer for Queen Candace. He finds the eunuch reading from the Book of Isaiah. A few things can be surmised from this. First of all, the eunuch is probably an admirer of Judaism, although he cannot participate in its practice. Secondly, the eunuch is well-educated and probably fairly successful (since he is so high in the queen’s court.)

Philip proclaims the good news by showing the eunuch how the prophesies of the Old Testament are fulfilled through Christ. He tells the eunuch about Jesus. When the eunuch asks for baptism, Philip obliges. At that point, Philip is in some way whisked or carried or snatched or in some other way compelled away, where he finds himself in Azotus, proclaiming the good news to more non-believers.

The man from Ethiopia played the role of the young boy in the Bible’s version of that story.  Philip played the role of the old man.  But the story is the same.

There are people everywhere, in every age and in every place who are longing to hear the good news and unless there are people to explain it, to share it with them they will not hear it and their lives will not be transformed and given over to Christ.  We are each called to be that someone.

It’s a sad reality today that sharing the story of Jesus, telling others about the good news of Jesus is something that many Christians are uncomfortable doing and frankly hardly ever reach to share what Jesus means to them with anyone, anytime, anyplace for any reason.

I get it.

It can be uncomfortable speaking to others about things of the heart and nothing         is more of the heart than turning your life over to Jesus.

It can seem like being pushy or presumptuous to lean on someone else and speak         of the place of faith in your own life.  Like, what right do we have to push     ourselves in a place where angels sometimes fear to trod?

I get it.

We’ve all been leaned on, pushed, inappropriately accosted by some well meaning         but presumptuous person telling us about Jesus and how we should fall on our        knees and confess Jesus…or risk going to hell in a hand basket.

It’s hard talking about the deep things of life, it’s a lot easier talking about           baseball or basketball or the weather or what’s on sale at Costco.

I do get it.

It’s hard.

It can be uncomfortable.

We may not know exactly what to say or how to say it.

Lots of bad memories may still linger in our heart about how we were accosted in        a bad way somewhere along the way.

But we have to do just the same.  We have to be willing to be “the one” and to reach out and touch someone else with the life changing story of Jesus Christ

No, if we look at it the right way, we “GET” to do it.

We get to share the good news.

We get to open our heart to others and let them see us for real.

We get to let others open up their heart to us and let us see them.

We get to talk about something of life changing proportions, something that makes a difference, something WAY more important than the weather or the league standings or how the price of gasoline is up a nickel.

It’s actually quite a privilege to talk about something that really matters.  We all want to live a life that matters.  We all want to know we are making a contribution that goes beyond advising someone about what color of tie to wear or what kind of tires last the longest on our car or when the next O’s baseball game is.  We all want to make a difference.

What bigger difference is there than sharing the life giving, life changing, life renewing kind of life that comes through relationship with Jesus and have it lived out in a caring, life giving, wonderful kind of community we call the church.

If not you who?

If not now when?

It’s important that we all understand the imperative of sharing the good news with our friends, our neighbors, our family members, and anyone and everyone God gives us an opportunity to connect in a deep and meaningful way with.

Not because the world is turning away from Jesus.

Not because the world is turning away from the church.

Not because the world is more and more uninterested in things spiritual.

Not because the church will die on the vine if we don’t grow the church.

BUT…because people are hungry for the gospel,

Because we have the food that will satisfy them for a lifetime.

Because we have the drink that will quench their thirst for the rest of their lives.

Because there is no better place for them to connect in meaningful ways with a community of people who will give life, receive life and share life.

Because, not to be melodramatic about it but their life may depend on it.

A new survey shows that since 2012 the United States has about 7.5 million more Americans who are no longer active in religion.

The 2014 General Social Survey was released in March.  Funded by the National Science Foundation, this multi-million dollar study gives us the most accurate data on American society including religion.

  •  More Americans prefer “no religion” than ever before.  Up until the 1990’s the “nones” hovered in the single digits…they are now 21% of the population.  How large is that?  There are nearly as many “nones” as there are Catholics (24%) now.
  • Americans aren’t going to church like they used to either.  The number of Americans who never darken a church door is now at a new high also.  34%.
  • More Americans say they never pray.  The percentage who say they never pray rose from 10% in 2004 to 15% in 2014.

Closing…

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.                                                Acts 8:30, 31, 35

We need to rediscover a sense of passion in the church for sharing Jesus.

We need to rekindle a fire in our hearts for reaching out and inviting others to come and share in the joy of the church and of the importance of the church just like we have received.

The world is turning darker in no small part because Christians have grown apathetic, indifferent and all too often silent on sharing the love of Jesus with others who need to experience their love for themselves.

The time is now.

The call is for every one of us.

The urgency is here.

Won’t you be like Phillip and reach out on the Damascus Road and tell the man from Ethiopia about the Lord you know and you?

Won’t you be like Chester Lyons and reach out and talk to the stranger who came in and sat near you today?

There are people everywhere who are longing to hear the good news and unless there are people to explain it, to share it with them they will not hear it and their lives will not be transformed and given over to Christ.  We are each called to be that someone.