Sunday, June 21, 2015

God's Radical Love: More Powerful than fear, hate; Acts 8:26-40

June 21, 2015
Acts 8:26-40
Rev. George N. Miller

First John 4:7 states “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God.”

How simple, how elegant.

Last Monday at my gym’s cardio-theater, they were showing the movie “Interstellar,” a science-fiction film about a father’s relationship with his daughter.

Set in the future, the characters are living in an era in which the Earth has stopped producing food, so they’re in search for new planets to inhabit.

The Father is selected to pilot a spacecraft to one of those planets, and is reluctant because he doesn’t want to leave his beloved child behind.

However, if he does not go on this mission, his daughter, and her entire generation, will all die off.

The dilemma he faces is: abandon the daughter he loves so that she may live, or stay with the daughter he loves but she will eventually die a painful death.

No choice a parent would want to make.

The course of the film follows the father’s decision and becomes a metaphysical, cinematic exploration on the theme of parental love.

How love is able to transcend distance and space, how love is more powerful than hellos and goodbyes, gravity and light, and how love can even transcend time: the past and future, the now and the soon-to-be.

“Interstellar” is a perfect film for Father’s Day.

Going back to 1 John 4, it further states: “Everyone who loves is born of God…since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another...”

The logic is so clear: love because God loves.

Love, perhaps the most powerful force on earth.

How unfortunate is the life of one who does not experience love from family, friend, soul-mate or self.

Father’s Day is a good day to talk about love. I already shared with you my personal experience of having a father who loved me unconditionally, no matter who I was or where I was on my journey.

Today we celebrate the men in our lives, not just those who are biological fathers. We celebrate those who are positive role models, those who look after others, and even those who may have made some mistakes but are finding ways to work through them.

Of course, we cannot talk about fathers without talking about the Father: God.

Our Eternal Parent who gave us breathe, gave us a world to live in, gave us boundaries to live a healthy life, and gave us a brother in Jesus Christ in which we are all adopted in.

In today’s reading we get a larger glimpse into just how radical and inclusive the love of God, our Holy Papa is, as revealed through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 8 we see how God’s love transcends space and time; we see how God’s love is powerful enough to adopt someone who is so completely outside the frays of society.

In this part of the narrative, the early church is beginning to form. The disciples are like balloons filled with the Holy Spirit.

They are busy, busy, busy preaching, teaching, healing. Philip discerns the Lord saying to get up and go towards the south, on a wilderness road that’s out of town.

He’s lead to an Ethiopian eunuch who is reading Scripture in his chariot.

Now, there are a few things you need to know.

Whenever we hear the word dessert or wilderness, we should automatically think barren, lonely, and isolated.

Being in the wilderness is meant to sound bleak, however scripturally it is often in the wilderness that one experiences God: Moses before the burning bush; the Israelites as they travel to the Promised Land.

The man is from Ethiopia, a place so far, far away that people literally thought it was the end of the earth, and if you went any further you’d fall off.

He was an Ethiopian, which meant he was black. Not black as in brown, or light skinned, but black as in he was so black he was blue. So he looked much different than Philip.

And he was a eunuch; a human Ken doll if you will. He was a castrated male, unable to have children; deviant and incomplete.

Jewish law was clear: Deuteronomy 23 states that eunuchs were not allowed to enter the Temple, nor could they be part of the religious community.

But yet here is a man who so clearly wants to know and have a relationship with Papa God that he rides a far distance to worship the Lord.

He even pulls over to the side of the barren road to read scripture. That would be like driving to Sarasota on 64 and pulling over to read the Bible.

That’s how much the Eunuch wanted to be accepted into the family of Papa God.

The Spirit leads Philip to him and not only does Philip welcome the Eunuch, he runs towards him, gets in the chariot and sits beside him, engaging him in face-to-face conversation about faith.

To understand how radical Philip’s actions are, to understand how radically inclusive this story is-

Imagine if this took place during 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama and Philip sat next to Rosa Parks in the front of the bus.

Imagine if this was 2015, Caitlyn Jenner is shooting the cover of Vanity Fair and Philip came up to her in-between shots.

Imagine you on the lowest day of your life, when you felt the most alone, broken and ashamed of something you had done, and Philip finding you to say “You are not cut off from the family of God; in Jesus Christ you are welcome to it.”…

The story of the Eunuch is good news because in many ways he represents us; he represents anyone who’s ever felt disenfranchised or exiled, or who was told they are unworthy of God’s love.

The eunuch represents us when we feel like we won’t be welcome because of how we look, how we’re dressed, because of our race, our financial situation, because of our age, or because our bodies (our legs, our hands, our eyes, our bladders) no longer act the way they use to act.

To which we learn that God is love and the Good News that we are adopted in Jesus Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit.

The eunuch represents us on those days when we feel too riddled with guilt, shame and feelings of worthlessness.

Or those days where you feel like you don’t know enough Scripture, enough songs, enough theology to call yourself a Christian.

To which we learn God is love and the Good News that we are adopted in Jesus Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit…

…1 John tells us love is from God and God is love. And in Acts 8 we get to experience just how radical and inclusive that love is.

That the love of our Father is a love that’s grand enough and abundant enough to include everybody, everywhere.

Feel like you live on the outskirt of society? Papa God loves you.

Feel like you’ve spent all your life searching and seeking for something you have yet to find? Papa God loves you.

Feel like you can never be accepted for what you are, or perhaps what you’ve become because of situations? Papa God loves you.

Excluded from a community unwilling to offer you acceptance? Papa God loves you.

After all, God does not see as we see. God knows more than we can ever know. God is more forgiving than we ourselves could ever hope to be.

God is filled with limitless love that transcends distance and space, love that is more powerful than hellos and goodbyes, love that is stronger than gravity and light, love that can transcend time: the past and future, the now and the soon-to-be.

Like a faithful father who loves all his children equally, God loves us all, and through the works of the Holy Spirit and the experience of Christ, borders are erased and the lost, the lonely and the broken are called back home.

Love is from God, God is love.

Amen and amen.

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