28 April 2024

This connection between resurrection and living a life of love and service to others continues this week in the Lectionary. The primary challenge is to be those who bear fruit for the sake of Christ, and the fruit we are called to bear is Christ-like, sacrificial love that creates a world in which God’s righteousness and justice last for generations.

May our worship challenge and change us into true lovers of God and of people.

Acts 8:26-40: Philip is instructed to go to a certain road where he encounters an Ethiopian eunuch on his way home after worshipping in Jerusalem. Philip finds him reading Isaiah’s scroll, and explains what the Scriptures say about Jesus. Then he baptises the eunuch

Psalm 22:25-31: A psalm of praise and commitment in which God is celebrated for God’s provision and authority, and all people are challenged to worship God, to fulfil promises to God, and to proclaim God’s righteousness to unborn generations.

1 John 4:7-21: An exhortation to love one another, because God is love. If we cannot love our brothers and sisters whom we have seen, we cannot love God whom we do not see, but, as God has loved us, inspiring love for God in our hearts, so too, we should love one another. Such love drives out fear.

John 15:1-8: Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. God desires us to bear fruit, and to do so we must remain in Christ.

The heart of this week’s Lectionary is Jesus’ exhortation to “bear fruit”. There are two emphases in this call. The first is to “remain in” Christ – dwelling in deep, life-giving connection with Christ. The experiences of Philip, who is guided by God’s Spirit, and of the eunuch who comes to faith through Philip’s work are examples of this dwelling in Christ. The second emphasis is to “bear fruit”. What this fruit might be is explained by the other passages (but also by the context of this one). John’s letter explains that the test of our discipleship, and the “proof” of our love for God is our love for others. This agrees with the context of John 15 which also speaks about love as the commandment Jesus gives his disciples. The Acts reading and the Psalm also reflect another kind of fruit that we are called to bear – which certainly flows out of our love – it’s the fruit of our witness to Christ. This section of Psalm 22, which is the restoration part of the Psalm of lament that Jesus quoted on the cross, speaks of proclaiming God’s righteousness (justice) to unborn generations. This is an exhortation to share the goodness and justice of God with others in such a way that it impacts the world for those who are yet to be born. Philip’s obedience to the Spirit, and gentle witness to the Ethiopian eunuch is an example of this fruit bearing – sharing God’s grace and love with others (who would usually not be welcomed – as a Gentile and a eunuch this man would not have been permitted into the temple) in such a way that it changes the world for time to come – I believe some scholars have speculated that this eunuch could have founded the Ethiopian church that continues to this day. That’s quite some fruit! Essentially, the key ot this week’s theme is that our love for God must flow out into love for others – both Christian companions and others – in such a way that they too come to love God and others. This growing cycle of love for God and neighbour is what it means to bear fruit for God’s Reign.

Global Application:
On a global scale, this week’s idea of a justice or righteousness that is proclaimed to unborn generations is compelling. So often even our quest to love as Christ did is so immediate and short-sighted that we fail to recognise the long term impact of what we are allowing in our world, and sometimes, our work for justice now results in long term consequences that undermine or even negate the good we have created in the short term. For example, a few years ago, using biofuels to address short term energy needs and climate change issues, resulted in great social challenges for third world countries as grain prices went up and food became increasingly scarce as crops were diverted to the more profitable biofuel industry. As we seek to respond to the call of this week’s Lectionary to bear fruit, we need to acknowledge that true love does not seek the “quick fix” but is willing to commit to the long term, seeking true justice and attempting to bear fruit that lasts. This is a massive challenge in a world in which corporations are measured quarterly and Presidents have to prove themselves in 100 days. The addiction to immediate solutions and benefits is bringing suffering in so many ways – from human trafficking of children as cheap labour in the chocolate industry, to sweat shops in the clothing and technology industries, to the impact of fossil fuels on the environment, to the corruption that prevents aid reaching those who need it in some countries. But, the mark of our love as Christ-followers today will be seen in generations to come by whether our world is more just, equitable and sustainable because of our efforts to love well.

Local Application:
On a local and personal level, Philip’s example is a good one for us to follow as we seek to love God and others, and bear fruit for Christ. A number of factors stand out in this “fruit-bearing” moment of Philip’s. He was willing to be driven out of his way by his love for and obedience to God. He was willing to engage someone who was very different from him, and who would usually have been marginalised by his people. The eunuch was a foreigner, a Gentile and a man who had been castrated and was therefore, in one sense, unclean. He was also willing to meet the man where he was, beginning the conversation from the questions and reading of the eunuch. He did not impose his own agenda on the man, but listened and responded graciously and gently. Finally, he welcomed the eunuch into the community of faith by baptising him without question. All of these loving acts are the ones Jesus calls all his followers to perform in order to bear fruit. Our love for God is truly revealed as we act in these loving ways toward one another, and to the “outsiders” we encounter. And, as we welcome, listen to, serve, and love others, the impact of that on their lives can have healing, transforming, and empowering effects that can flow out to touch others and make a real difference in the world. To change the world, and manifest God’s Reign we don’t need to do “great” or dramatic things. We simply need to love the people God sends across our path genuinely, humbly and sacrificially.

Living Aligned
The Family You Have Given
Where Is The Love?
The Mystery Of Your Love
Love So Easy And So Hard

Hymn Suggestions:
Blest Be The Tie That Binds
Come, Let Us All Unite To Sing, God Is Love
There Is A Love
May The Words Of My Mouth (Link to YouTube video)
Let There Be Love Shared Among Us

A Liturgy for Communion
A Liturgy for the Breaking of Bread

Video Suggestions:
I Am The Vine
Known By Love