You Belong: Being Sent & Go – Sermon #07
a2vc.org • Feb 23, 2020 • Rev. Donnell T. Wyche • email@example.com • (734) 649-7163
We’re so glad you are here with us this morning. We’re grateful for you and the gifts of God that you bring with you into this space. As a church we partner with the liberating presence of God to cultivate joy, hope & belonging as Jesus invites us into freedom, keeps us free, and helps us free others. We pray that whether this is your first time with us this morning, or you’ve been a part of our community for a while, that you will feel the invitation of the Holy Spirit to join in with our vision. If you are looking for a church home, we would love to be your church home, and I, in particular would love to become your pastor.
Let’s get started with a video testimony detailing our past, present, and future as a church.
You Belong Video
This morning, we will share our last video testimony detailing our past, present, and future as a church. This week’s video is from Cody & Mikaela. If the team is ready, let’s go ahead and play the video.
This morning we are wrapping up our “You Belong” sermon series. Over the past several weeks, we have considered what it means for us to Belong, to Belong to God, Belong to Each Other, Belong to God, Belong to the Church and that Belonging had a purpose, which was to allow us to go and bear fruit.
As we wrap up this series, I want to circle back to last week’s invitation to consider living with our hands open to being interrupted by the Holy Spirit.
Let’s consider together the way the Spirit of Truth interrupts the disciple Philip in Acts, chapter 8 starting in verse 26. Let’s listen to this scripture together. [Play an audio clip of this passage]
26Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian 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, 28and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” 30Then 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.
32This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
33In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”
34The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. 36As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” 38And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea. (Acts 8:26-40)
I want to make some observations and offer an encouragement. First, this is a story of interruption, obedience, redemption, and transformation.
As the people of God, our discipleship requires an active connection with God through the Holy Spirit. How are you creating space for the Spirit to speak to you? How are you inviting the presence of the Divine in your everyday? Or have you surrendered to the liturgy of the Empire that wants to keep you busy, distracted, and overwhelmed, which is why only the Holy Spirit inspired worldview collisions (or interruptions) can disrupt and reorient us.
What’s going on this passage? Philip, hears the Spirit, has space to be interrupted, and is obedient to the Spirit’s prompting by chasing down a moving chariot. This is divine intentionally at work. I love this scene, you have Philip, a servant in his community serving the widows and the poor, having a Holy Spirit inspired worldview collision with a royal official who has enormous power. A simple reading of this passage is that the Ethiopian eunuch is being converted for future evangelism. It’s the idea that the eunuch will return to Ethiopia, share the gospel and transform a community, which may indeed happen, but this isn’t the point of the passage.
God is so passionately in love with us that God rescues us. God does this by partnering with God’s people to reveal grace, mercy, and forgiveness. This requires something of all of us, it requires that we are obedient and surrender the places that we fail to trust and rely on Jesus. God wants to reveal grace through us to declare over people that their identity doesn’t determine their destiny; that their definition doesn’t dictate their trajectory, that God is a story-changing God.
As much as the Ethiopian eunuch wants God, God wants the Ethiopian eunuch, and not to use the Ethiopian eunuch as a tool, but to liberate. I love the way Paul says it,
1It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)
This is what God does through God’s people, interruptible, obedient, and ready people who are willing to create breathing room for redemption, forgiveness, and transformation. God declares freedom.
Having had the passage explained, the Ethiopian eunuch is baptized, and did you notice that after the baptism, Philip is taken away. More freedom. Philip doesn’t stay on to define the Ethiopian eunuch’s discipleship. This work is Holy Spirit work. This work requires us to trust that God is good. It requires us to live with our hands opened.
Our neighbors, friends, family members, and strangers we encounter on the road need us to be the people of God revealing grace, mercy, forgiveness, and redemption so that they can go free.
I just want us to be the people of God, willing to have our lives interrupted, so that people might discover and surrender to the King of Glory who is renewing all things.
The Start of Lent
Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent. Lent is the season in the liturgical calendar where Christians all over the world prepare themselves for the celebration of Easter.
A part of the Ash Wednesday ritual is to receive ashes imposed on our foreheads in the shape of the cross, reminding us that
For dust you are
and to dust you will return (Genesis 3:19c)
The ashes we received on our foreheads are the burned fronds from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebrations. This is a serious and somber reminder of our mortality, our fragility, our sin, and our need for forgiveness.
“Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Luke 11:4
It is also a reminder that all that we are, all we hope to be, is held in the loving hands of a Father who sees us.
Marissa Ortiz and I will be participating in the annual ecumenical Taizé Ash Wednesday service at First Presbyterian. I really want you to make every effort to come out to this service, especially if you don’t come from a liturgical background.
So for most Christians, Lent serves as a time of deep self-reflection and internal inspection. It’s a time to look at what has been getting in the way of our relationship with God and to actively seek renewal and intimacy with God and each other. For some, it can be a time to strip away bad habits, clear our minds, rid ourselves of excess baggage, and to examine all the ways we “miss the mark” as we acknowledge our regret. We have lots of tools to help us with this process: prayer, fasting, service, and the simplification of our lives in the presence of a loving Father.
In the ancient church, Lent primarily served not only as a period of deep reflection of the sins that break community (adultery, lying, stealing) and a time for public penitence for sinners, but also served to prepare recent converts to Christianity for baptism. We will join this tradition by hosting baptisms on Easter Sunday here at the Vineyard. If you are here and would like to get baptized, you can sign-up in the lobby and someone from the leadership team will get in touch with you.
Our Lenten journey together will take 40 days. Chronologically, Lent starts 46 days before Easter. However, most faith traditions exclude Sundays. That’s how we get to 40 days.
Next week we will launch our Lenten sermon series, I am … Giving up… During this series, we will consider six of the seven “I am” statements from Jesus and consider what we might have to give up in order to allow Jesus to be the Lord and Master of our lives.
I’m excited to partner with the rest of the speaking team for this series and to hear their voices during Lent as we make our way to Easter.
We have prepared some material for our Lenten journey together, so I want to walk you through it now.
- Your Bold Request
- Identify one thing you’d like to ask God to do for you and then ask daily. Isaiah 62 instructs us to “remind” the Lord, and to “give him no rest” as we bring our longings to him. Jesus tells us the story of a persistent widow who receives justice from an unjust judge simply because she will not stop asking. And Jesus says to us, “will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?” So we are inviting each of us to make one bold, deeply person request this Lent. Take some time to prayerfully choose a deep need, a powerful longing that has been gripping your heart.
- The Answered Prayer Wall
- If you receive an answer to prayer during Lent, we invite you to write it on a sticky-note and stick it on the ANSWERED PRAYER WALL in the sanctuary. This is both a tangible reminder to us all that our prayers are heard by a powerful and active God and an act of worshipful gratitude. We can watch together as we visibly see the Holy Spirit at work in our midst.
- Identify and Pray for Your Six
- Prayerfully select six people in your world to pray for each day through the six weeks of Lent. I suggest people just beyond your primary relationship circle. Maybe not family and friends, but people around you—neighbors, co-workers, acquaintances— whoever you bump up against regularly in your day to day life. Especially those who might benefit from more experience of the Good God.
- It can be helpful to reflect on the ways you have been impacted by the prayers of others for your life.
- Bless Your Six
- This moves us to our next Lenten practice. Consider some extravagant care for one of your six. We not only wish to pray for God’s love and goodness in their lives, but we also want to become for those around us a reflection of the good God we serve. Ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to highlight a way that you can tangibly bless one of the people you’re praying for, a way that you can become for them a tangible encounter with God’s goodness. Now do it. Really. Even if it feels awkward or challenging. Ask God not only to meet the other person with love and care, but also to transform your heart through the act of sacrificial giving. To deepen this practice, consider engaging this act privately. When you give, “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:3). Intentionally avoid recognition or praise for your act. Pray through how it feels to do this.
- Experiment with a daily devotional
- We have a daily devotional to experiment available on the church website as a PDF that you can download and print out yourself and experiment with.
Get Baptized on Easter
In order to take hold of the salvation that Jesus won for us on the cross, we have to surrender our allegiance to sin and death.
We must reject their claims on our life and turn our back on them. Baptism is more than the outward symbol of our loyalty to Jesus, it’s the place where we break solidarity with sin; we change our status, and enter the kingdom of God where we are no longer subject to the rule and reign of sin and death.
The Lord satisfies your soul with His love. Turmoil is not your inheritance. (Read Psalm 63:5-8, Psalm 90:14)
Ask the Lord to conquer restlessness with His Spirit. He loves you and He sees you. Find your rest in Him. (Read Psalm 23:2-3)
Encouragement. Is there anyone you need to forgive? Unforgiveness can block your blessing. Repent and forgive them as the Lord forgives you. (Psalm 145:8 – The Lord is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. Psalm 103:12 – as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.)