Approach and Follow Through

I love it when the lectionary texts fit together in a way that makes sense in my head.  With 4 different texts weekly, often it is easier to just pick one and stick to it.  I always admire a preacher who can effectively tie them all together in a way that is meaningful and less like the sport highlights on the evening news.

This week’s texts (read them!) each touch on the importance of relationship with God and neighbor – and it is all about the approach and the follow through.  In Acts, the focus scripture our Sunday School curriculum highlights, Philip approaches an Ethiopian man who is reading Isaiah and so smoothly asks “do you understand what you are reading?” – beautiful.  Not – do you need the saving grace of Jesus in your life – but a simple question and offer to help.  How does Philip get this kind of smooth entry and wisdom?  By staying connected and listening to the Holy Spirit.

The gospel lesson for the week is John 15: 1-8 “I am the vine, you are the branches”.  Philip is doing the work he is called to do and being an awesome fruit producing branch.  All because he is connected to THE VINE.  This passage also talks about pruning the branches.  We can’t let the metaphor carry us too far away here.  This isn’t about any sort of judgement, because all branches need pruning to produce better quality fruit.  I am sure each of us could think of things in our lives that ought to be pruned.  We have to let the Holy Spirit do this work.  To guide us to the work that we are called to do (the approach) to put in the work to build relationships and serve (see how Philip took the time to go through the scriptures and share his knowledge) – this is the follow through.

Many scholars wonder if this is Philip the apostle, or another Philip mentioned later in the epistles showing the spreading of the gospel already. Whoever he was, the text notes his Jewish knowledge of Isaiah. This act of reaching out to the Ethiopian man would have been in many ways cross cultural.  We can gloss over this unique interaction when reading, but these two men came from very different contexts.  The willingness of both of them to enter into this relationship center around the stories of the people of faith shows that when we allow it to be – the message of God breaks down boundaries and unites people through the love of God.

We all have different callings.  Our world has plenty of need.  This weeks headlines show us that over and over again.  Nepal.  Baltimore.  Nigeria. The US Supreme Court. And these current issues do not replace the many many other issues we face – affordable housing, homelessness, an unfair education system, debt, and so many more.

Some of us are called to be teachers, preachers, healers, wayfinders, helpers, advocates, musicians, and so much more.  We are gifted and equipped by God to tackle the worlds needs – but we need to answer our calls and do our work.  We must stay connected to the vine to help with the clarity of what is our work and what is others.  I know I for one, get distracted easily and jump into the work of others.

Callings, fruit, vines, building relationships and breaking down barriers – SO MUCH going on.  There must be a why, a reason.

Why are you a disciple of Jesus?  Why do you do any of this hard work? Why are you reading this?

The why will be different for each of us, and it will change over time as our discipleship deepens.  Yet it is important to have a grounding in our own why.  For me, I believe that all of creation, created in the image of God, is worthy to be cared for, nurtured, and loved so that it may flourish as God intends.  I believe this of every child, adult, ecosystem, and community.  I am called to the work of building connections, be that between people and the natural world, individuals and others around them, or across communities.  I do this because of the intense love of God in my life.

The epistle lesson for the week reminds us (1 John 4:7-8) “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
4:8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

  • I wonder – what is your why?
  • I wonder what work you are called to do?
  • I wonder how God guides you in your approach and follow through?
  • I wonder how the fruit of your branch brings a sweet taste of God’s love to the world?

May the peace of God be with you and yours. ~ Deacon Erin

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