MISSION WOODS CHURCH
Worship Sunday May 2 2021
  • Behold What Manner Of Love
  • Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)
  • Be Thou My Vision
  • I Love You, Lord
  • This past week I finished reading the book Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright, and I’d happily recommend it to you all. One of the topics he brought up in his closing chapter was the amount of time we as Christians spend on Christmas, and how little we spend on Easter.
    For weeks leading up to Christmas we are busy decorating (some begin right after Halloween), planning special meals, preparing for special Christmas services, and so much more. Then we continue to celebrate Christmas with many people taking the week off between Christmas and New Years. It’s a big thing.
    Yet when we compare Christmas to Easter, there is not much mention of it in our culture. For those connected to some traditional churches there is the season of Lent a 40 day period + Sundays leading up to Easter, but there is not a lot of hoopla about it. Then we get to Easter, and though we might have special services for Maundy Thursday, and perhaps Good Friday, we’re relatively silent on Saturday, then we have Easter day, and we’re done. Monday - it’s all over!
    Wright points out Easter “is our great festival”!
    “Take Christmas away, and in biblical terms you lose two chapters at the front of Matthew and Luke, nothing else. Take Easter away, and you don’t have a New Testament; you don’t have a Christianity; as Paul says, you are still in your sins. We shouldn’t allow the secular world, with its schedules and habits and parareligious events, its cute Easter bunnies, to blow us off course. This is our greatest day. We should put the flags out.” Wright says.
    Wright, N. T.. Surprised by Hope (pp. 256-257). HarperOne. Kindle Edition. ”
    I realize it is unlikely many of you follow the liturgical calendar, however, if you were to look at such a calendar you would note that we are in the 5th week of Easter, culminating on the 8th week of Easter with Pentecost the day we celebrate the Holy Spirit being poured out on believers.
    Easter is our celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, the Christ, our Messiah. And why is it such a big deal? Because in doing so Jesus conquered death and we know that we too will rise again.
    Hear those words carefully - as Christians we believe that we will rise again.
    Romans 6:5 ESV
    For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
    This is the central hope of our faith. If you have not paid attention to it before, I encourage you all to read through the New Testament after the Gospels - Acts through Revelation - and note how often our resurrection as believers is mentioned.
    Mindful of our place in the Easter season, let us turn to our Scriptures for today:
    Our first reading is from Acts 8:26-40
    Acts 8:26–40 ESV
    Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
    Our second reading is also from the New Testament. Today’s reading is from 1 John 4:7-21
    1 John 4:7–21 ESV
    Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
    And finally our Gospel reading is from John’s Gospel, chapter 15, vs. 1-8.
    John 15:1–8 ESV
    “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
    The Word of our Lord!
    Thanks be to God.

    For What Purpose?

    The story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch is really an amazing passage. It crosses ethnic, geographic, and status structures and reminds us once again of how an encounter with Jesus changes everything.
    There is not a whiff of prejudice, condescension, or strife in this story. Both in essence are responding to God’s call. Philip hears from an angel of the Lord. The Eunuch has come to Jerusalem to worship and as he is returning home he’s reading from Isaiah. And God has arranged a meeting.
    Philip shows up, responding to God’s urging, and he simply asks a question. “Do you understand what you’re reading?”
    It might be like us hearing someone talk about Easter and Jesus rising again. We might ask, “do you understand what that means?”
    The Eunuch was reading from Isaiah, and the passage he was reading was:
    Acts 8:32–33 ESV
    Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.”
    And what happened next? The eunuch asked a question and in vs. 35 we read, “Then Philip opened his mouth,...” and he tells the story of Jesus beginning from the point that the eunuch is reading. The implication is that he told him about Jesus life, death, and resurrection. He explained to him what that meant.
    As the story continues the eunuch is baptized. Baptism symbolizes our own death and resurrection - how powerful is that. The resurrection is again preached, and the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, while the Ethiopian goes on his way rejoicing.

    Crossing Paths

    Philip didn’t know why he was going to that road that goes from Jerusalem to Gaza, but he went.
    The Ethiopian eunuch didn’t understand the Scriptures, but he was trying, and he was humble enough to ask.
    God brought them together - the Ethiopian is baptized and goes on his way rejoicing, Philip is led away to Azotus where he continues to preach the Gospel.
    Why does Philip preach the Gospel? What is the Gospel it is Jesus coming, Jesus teaching, Jesus’ death and Jesus’ resurrection. It is Jesus pending return! It’s Good News! If you have Good News, you want to share it.

    Bearing of Fruit

    In our Gospel reading we read about the Father as the vinedresser, and Jesus as the vine. We are created to be fruitful.
    What are fruits? In his letter to the Galatians the Apostle Paul wrote:
    Galatians 5:22–23 ESV
    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
    Not one of us would call any of these traits anything but good, anything but positive. And how are they lived out. But note these are fruits of the Spirit, the Spirit begin within us. They are an outflow of our relationship with God.
    They can also just be done. Jesus himself reminded us that many will come to him touting their great works:
    Matthew 7:22–23 ESV
    On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
    Our works of righteousness are but filthy rags if they are not grounded in our relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. And when they are, we can’t help but also be fully aware of Jesus dying for our sins, and rising again conquering death for all who believe. That we too might attain a resurrection like His. A life no longer mired by the pains and ills of this world. A life in pure relationship with God. As the spiritual says: No more crying there, no more sighing there, no more dying there.
    This is the Good News for you and for me. It is the greatest expression of love ever. It is why we often refer to Jesus death and resurrection as the Passion.
    So then comes the difficult question we might all be asked one day. How can we say we love our brother and withhold the Good News from them?
    I don’t simply ask that as a jab that you all go out and stand on the street corner to preach to strangers. If you’re called to that then by all means you need to respond. But what about our households? What about our families? What about our neighbors? What about the people you cross paths with?
    1 John 4:7–12 ESV
    Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
    God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
    God sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
    In the next section John makes it so clear what it means.
    1 John 4:16–17 ESV
    So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.
    If we can have confidence for the day of judgment, we can certainly have confidence to share the Good News that others might also know God and this love.
    1 John 4:20 ESV
    If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

    For What Purpose?

    We have many questions about purpose:
    why did God create the world?
    Why did Jesus come and die for fallen humanity?
    Why was Jesus resurrected?
    Why are we in our faith assured of a resurrection like His?
    It all comes down to one thing. For the glory of God. That’s what it is all about.
    As we continue to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and continue to grow in our understanding of the resurrection that awaits those of us who profess Jesus as Lord, let us all give God the glory! Amen.
      • Romans 6:5ESV

      • Acts 8:26–40ESV

      • 1 John 4:7–21ESV

      • John 15:1–8ESV

      • Acts 8:32–33ESV

      • Galatians 5:22–23ESV

      • Matthew 7:22–23ESV

      • 1 John 4:7–12ESV

      • 1 John 4:16–17ESV

      • 1 John 4:20ESV

  • In Remembrance
  • Standing On The Promises (Promises)
  • They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love

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