The Fifth Sunday of Easter
This morning we are very happy to be able to worship again in church. Our online written services will continue for those not able to join us. This week our service is led by Rev Robert Frede.
who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ
have overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life:
grant that, as by your grace going before us
you put into our minds good desires,
so by your continual help
we may bring them to good effect;
through Jesus Christ our risen Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The hymn NEH 103: Alleluia! Alleluia! Hearts to heav’n and voices raise
Today’s lesson from the book of Acts tells us something about a better kind of guidance. The story is one of a royal officer in the Ethiopian court – traveling back home from worshiping in Jerusalem. He was reading aloud from the Hebrew Bible – from the book of Isaiah. The man’s traveling companion was an early Christian disciple, Philip.
Philip became inspired to ask the Ethiopian if he understood what he was reading.
“How can I? He replied, unless someone guide me?”
So Philip began to teach him the Good News of Christ.
The Ethiopian had been reading Isaiah 53 – a passage we know as the suffering servant hymn, an account about God’s servant as one led like a sheep to be slaughtered, who in humiliation was deprived of justice and whose life was taken from the earth. Philip explained the passage as a prophecy of the crucifixion of Christ. He used it as a springboard to tell his new friend that the one who was spoken of in Isaiah was actually the one who died for us.
He told about astonishing Good News – that from this unjust death, God raised the suffering servant to be the saviour of the world. Philip revealed the truth of the awesome power of this dying and rising, of the Resurrection of and transformation of human lives and human relationships. In response, the Ethiopian asked to be baptised – then and there, and after Philip baptised him, the new Christian went on his way rejoicing.
In the story we see a good guide, Philip, and the committed searcher – the newly converted Ethiopian who accepted the guidance in the way of God in Christ. These two offer us proper examples for living out the implications of the Good News of Christ. The Ethiopian was hungry for God. He was looking for meaning by reading the Bible. He was confused by his reading, but he was open to new possibilities. He was willing to be guided – but he needed a good guide.
What happened to the Ethiopian after his Baptism? When he returned to his homeland, who was there to continue guiding him?
Perhaps there was no one. If not, we must wonder how well he could continue his new found faith without anyone to continue leading him in the way of Christ. Each of us is like the Ethiopian. Though we too are baptised, we still need proper guidance. We wonder in what ways we can find the spiritual guidance we need?
We are all like Philip who was moved by the Holy Spirit. God’s Holy Spirit can guide us through prayer, informed Bible readings, the application of church teachings and the witness of mature, committed, courageous Christians. And each of us is also like the Ethiopian. We are part of a faith handed down from generation to generation, and we depend on guidance from others. We can never learn all we need to know for our soul’s health without accepting guidance throughout life. We are guided by our parents, Godparents, Sunday school teachers, clergy, and fellow pilgrims on the journey of faith.
As our faith matures, we are also called to become guides for others. Ours is a faith that thrives on mutual nurturing and the modelling of the Christlike life. We are called to take seriously our responsibilities to offer guidance to others, showing them by word and example the Good News of Christ.
Throughout our lives of faith, we continue to nurture others as we have been nurtured. Just as Philip taught the Ethiopian about meaning of God’s actions in Christ, we teach others are we are taught.
Today’s Gospel lesson teaches us to follow both the example of Philip and the Ethiopian, to be both disciple and guide. In so doing, we will heed the witness of today’s Gospel story. Jesus said, If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
Today’s lesson from Acts reminds us of the importance of guidance on the Christian journey. As we reflect about Philip teaching the Ethiopian about the Good News of Christ so long ago, let us remember who is the true and ultimate guide for life s journey. Let us remember who leads us in the direction of loving God and others. Let us turn to Jesus as our guide. In so doing, we will learn his way so clearly that we may guide others into the way of all truth.
Heavenly Father, we give You thanks that we may once again come into Your house of prayer, to worship You, and seeking that peace which You promise to those who trust in You.
As we see the chaos, pain and strife around us we sense that the world is in the grip of forces far beyond human understanding and control, and we turn to You in humility but trust.
We bring before You our world in the grip of a pandemic which is defying man’s ingenuity to control. Despite our ever increasing understanding of the workings and wonders of nature, we are shown to be helpless if God is ignored and denied.
We pray for the world at large, all nations and peoples;
We pray for those lands unable to cope with the Covid pandemic, without medicines or medical care, and even unable to bury or cremate their dead.
We pray for those countries whose peoples are suffering oppression and suppression under authoritarian leaderships;
for those lands racked by terrorism and internal strife;
and for the many areas increasingly suffering from the effects of climate change.
We pray for the United Kingdom still struggling with the consequences of Brexit,
and for The Netherlands struggling with internal political issues and the formation of a new government;
And we pray especially for our monarchs at this time,
for Queen Elizabeth as she continues to fulfil her lonely role without her lifelong support Prince Philip;
and for King William Alexander and his family seeking to understand their role in a changing world and society.
Give all rulers and those in authority, O God, the wisdom to understand that the spirit of service is greater than the love of power, that they may use their positions and influence with justice and compassion.
Lord in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
We pray for ourselves and for Your whole Church; Heavenly Father, strengthen our belief and trust in Your infinite love for Your creation, and hold our hands tight as You lead us through the labyrinth of confusion around us at this time. Fill O God the ministers in Your Church with Your Holy Spirit, that, protected from the subtleties of Satan, they may see and understand Your will for Your Church, and guide and protect the flocks in their care.
We continue to pray for, and give particular thanks for, the ministers that You have so richly blessed us with during this time of our interregnum.
Lord in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
We pray for all sick and suffering, for the depressed, the bereaved, and those struggling with their faith;
we pray particularly for those of our own congregation, for those on our Chaplaincy Prayer List;
for those too frail or handicapped to be present with us in Church,
and for those for whom we personally wish to pray …..
Comfort, O God, all in distress, relieve them from their suffering if it be Your will,
and lift them up in Your everlasting arms;
Lord in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Heavenly Father, you have promised to provide light in the darkness for those who trust in you:
Grant us the grace to understand what you would have us do, and the courage and strength to do it;
Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ.
The Anthem: The Call by Richard Lloyd
whose Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life:
grant us to walk in his way,
to rejoice in his truth,
and to share his risen life;
who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.
you gave your Son Jesus Christ to be the good shepherd,
and in his love for us to lay down his life and rise again:
keep us always under his protection,
and give us grace to follow in his steps;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ. Amen.