SET FREE TO HEAL & WORSHIP
Acts 8: 26-40
JOHN 15: 1-8
If we had allowed this morning’s Gospel reading to go a little bit further we would have heard these words of Jesus …
“As the Father loved me, I tool have loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments … you will remain in my love just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have said these things to you. …. So that your joy may be complete. This is my commandment, love each other as I have loved you.”
In those words Jesus attempts to liberate us … to set us free. To take away the misery, the angst, the frustration, and the struggles of every day life. To heal us in joy, which sets us free to worship Him.
We are almost to May … Easter; do you even consider Easter and Holy Week as you rub the sleep out of your eyes on Spring mornings? Thank God; another day! Thank You God; Jesus You paid the price! Thank You Holy Spirit … set me free from the world I face; heal me from the struggles I hold … set me free to shine the light of Christ on the world.
Philip’s challenge of the day was to chase down a chariot. Now, Philip had already met the man inside… a very important man from Africa. A man in charge of all the treasury of Candace who was the queen of Ethiopia. Philip ran … he didn’t sit back; he didn’t hold off; he didn’t contemplate the blades of grass he sensed God’s Holy Spirit directing him towards the place God needed Philip to be at. He ran forward … are you running?
I truly believe … it is deep within me that I have believe that God has a plan for each of us. Not a ten year plan that allows us to slowly stretch and push back and delay and deny and forget what we sensed God pushing us towards. I believe that God’s Spirit is directing us forward into our todays and yes we don’t always pick up on it and many if not most of the times something gets in our way. But Jesus is clear … produce fruit.
As a football fan I have to laugh at times at the year round industry that the National Football League has created. Once upon a time once the championship game was played in late December or early January the men who played the game went off to their second jobs because the game didn’t pay them enough to live on and we forgot about them until training camp stated up again in the summer months.
But, in the times we live in the season never ends. If you’re a fan you know what this week was … THE DRAFT … who would get picked number one? How many prognosticators were being paid to create MOCK DRAFTS in the weeks between the Super Bowl and this past Thursday that thousands of people would read thinking these called experts listing of college players would bring relief or heart ache to each fan and their teams? Every team had needs players to be replaced … Most fans had scanned the names of unknown kids in college who just might be the answer. And, then the countdown … your team is “on the clock.” Who would they pick?
My brother and I were down in Baltimore for the draft … pretending to be part of the RAVENS FLOCK … waving our purple and black Pom Poms but what we wanted in addition to brother bonding was to hear the names … the names of the newest BUFFALO BILLS … with the 7th pick in the 2018 draft the Buffalo Bills pick … drum roll … JOSH ALLEN from Wyoming. The answer? Some even used the term savior … for a team. Now, the Eagles in this year’s draft even picked a kid who has never played football …
And, do we remember EASTER? Guess who God drafted? Do you know who God picked? God’s first round?
Sitting in a chariot was this man from Africa; he was an early first round pick of God’s … reading these words; words that we can read … a prophecy about an event we all know about …
“He was pierced because of our rebellions and crushed because of our crimes. He bore punishment that made us whole; by His wounds we are healed. Like sheep we had all wandered away, each going his own way, but the LORD let fall on HIM all our crimes. He was oppressed and tormented … like a lamb being brought to the slaughter. Due to an unjust ruling He was taken away and His fate … who will think about it?”
This man needed these words to be guided towards the One we each know about. He needed a coach.
This morning is it Jesus who resonates? Jesus who leads and directs us? … EASTER was the morning on which we could proclaim HE IS RISEN <<He is Risen Indeed>> but truthfully as we move from April to May … as gardeners focus on flowers and plants and sports fans dream dreams of Super Bowl potential and Stanley Cups and World Series parades on Broad … HE IS STILL JESUS; He is still risen; and God through Jesus has set us free to live for God; directed by the Holy Spirit; and to truly be healed through our worship experiences discovering joy amidst strife and struggles. No promise of an easy life … just a guarantee of an eternal one.
One thing we know of from Luke’s history in Acts about the man responsible for the wealth of Ethiopia is that he had travelled from Africa to Jerusalem. He was now returning home. Now, I did a GPS routing this morning for his return trip home just in case any of you might want to take it some day. I figured that a quick stop at David’s Tomb might have been his starting place so as his chariot turns down Ma’ale HaShalom Street his driver would have to make almost a full circle turn to their right onto Route 60. Route 60 leads to Route 1 which will take them close to Jericho … yes, the road way where the Good Samaritan did God’s work after those holier than thou types walked right by. Right near the Dead Sea, they will turn right onto Highway 90 heading south into the Negev Desert. Take Route 55 into Egypt then after stopping at an I-Hop for breakfast the chariot would continue through Sudan into Ethiopia. The trip a mere 3,933 kilometers or 2, 455 miles … approximately.
This man had traveled 2500 miles to worship God … to be set free … and after he worshiped at the Temple he needed more so there he was reading God’s Word from the prophet Isaiah whose words teach … about Jesus. And, then Philip showed this powerful person the Light of Christ. Transformed him right there in his chariot.
This morning friends … how many miles did you drive to enjoy a chicken … ooops to worship our God? When you woke up this past Friday morning did you think about who you could shine the Light of Jesus Christ on? Whose confusion you could clear up? Who in your life needed to be set free … or do you still need to be set free? Do you still need to be healed? Are you hesitant to dance freely worshiping God like David did before the Ark of the Covenant or like the girls did last Sunday here in worship while my friend Chris sang BLESSED BE THE NAME?
You see we call today’s service a healing service but Dave Delaney has no powers to cause a man to rise up from a wheelchair … but God can heal … we need to be healed and lifted up … God can bring joy to a broken spirit … we so desperately need to be set free and that’s what God can do for each of us today if we let God do it.
Our journey does not have to encompass thousands of miles to get to the Temple of God … the Spirit of the Lord is ready … the Spirit of the Lord can get you to rejoice just as the eunuch did after rising up from the waters of baptism.
God does not need a draft to choose the players for God’s team … we are the chosen ones as are those who will be walking away from our church today with chicken dinners in their hands … as are those who are hungry and hurting on the streets of Camden today … as are the men and women we might pass if we were crossing the Manshia Bridge in Sudan just 400 kilometers from the Ethiopian border on our drive from David’s Tomb in Jerusalem to the marketplace in Ethiopia ‘s capital city. You see … ALL are loved by God.
But God needs the branches to bear fruit … Jesus said
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If … IF …. IF … you remain in me and I in you, you will produce much fruit. My Father is glorified when you produce much fruit and in this way prove that you are my disciples.”
If we remain in Jesus … if we wake up and realize we are on Jesus team … that we have been set free … that we can be healed by remaining in Jesus love … if we keep Jesus commandments … LOVE GOD LOVE NEIGHBORS … it’s Jesus joy we will get and then our joy will be complete.
BLESSED BE YOUR NAME … BLESSED BE YOUR NAME WHEN I’M FOUND in the DESERT PLACE … EVERY BLESSING YOU TURN OUT … I’LL TURN INTO PRAISE! BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD!
Jesus said … REMAIN IN MY LOVE … so on the road marked with suffering lift up God … remain in Jesus love … be freed … allow yourself to be healed … worship with abandon and then go out there … out there to shine the Light of Jesus … there are folks who need to know they are on God’s team too! AMEN
Watch a video of today’s worship service: