Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year B)
John 15:1-8 and Acts 8:26-40
May 6, 2012
It's spring here in Minnesota which means that it's time for me to do some gardening...
...and kill some plants.
No matter how hard I try, I'm just not great when it comes to planting flowers. It's not that the plants die the instant they see me...it's just that they don't thrive as easily as they would if someone else planted these flowers.
I think there are a few issues here; I probably didn't plant the flowers deep enough, thereby exposing the roots; the soil itself is not the best and probably needs to be dug up; and I may not water enough. I'm thinking that these living things are not grounded enough, not enough to withstand the heat of Minnesota summers and the chill of Minnesota winters.
In Jesus' never-ending final speech to his disciples, he starts talking about being the vine and about his disciples being branches. "I am the vine, you are the branches," he says. Jesus goes on to say that those who abide in him will bear fruit, while those who don't abide in Christ don't produce fruit.
Since I'm a city kid, I didn't really get this whole vine and branch thing. It wasn't until I started (trying) to plant that I realized the importance of being spiritually grounded in Christ.
Which leads to our second passage in Acts where the apostle Phillip is directed by an angel to take the road out of Jerusalem to Gaza where he encounters an Ethiopian who just happens to be the finance minister of his kingdom. We learn that this man is a eunuch and he went to Jerusalem to worship at the temple even though he couldn't go where all the Jews could go worship because the law forbade eunuchs from being Jews.
Phillip and the man talk about Scripture which leads to talking about Jesus. The Ethiopian is baptized by Phillip who right after the baptism is snatched by the Spirit to go to another region to share the good news there.
So, what do the two passages have in common? Not much, except that the reason this whole encounter between the eunuch and Phillip happened was because Phil was open to the prompting and guiding of the Spirit. He was grounded.
As we go about our work in the world, especially as we pursue justice, we are reminded in these passages to be grounded in Christ. If we are grounded, if we are open to hear how God speaks to us, then God will take us to places we never imagined.
Go and be church.
Dennis Sanders is the Associate Pastor at First Christian Church in Minneapolis.