26 An angel from the Lord spoke to Philip, “At noon, take the road that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert road.) 27 So he did. Meanwhile, an Ethiopian man was on his way home from Jerusalem, where he had come to worship. He was a eunuch and an official responsible for the entire treasury of Candace. (Candace is the title given to the Ethiopian queen.) 28 He was reading the prophet Isaiah while sitting in his carriage. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Approach this carriage and stay with it.” 30 Running up to the carriage, Philip heard the man reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you really understand what you are reading?” 31 The man replied, “Without someone to guide me, how could I?” Then he invited Philip to climb up and sit with him. 32 This was the passage of scripture he was reading:
Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent so he didn’t open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation justice was taken away from him. Who can tell the story of his descendants because his life was taken from the earth?
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, about whom does the prophet say this? Is he talking about himself or someone else?” 35 Starting with that passage, Philip proclaimed the good news about Jesus to him. 36 As they went down the road, they came to some water. The eunuch said, “Look! Water! What would keep me from being baptized?”38 He ordered that the carriage halt. Both Philip and the eunuch went down to the water, where Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Lord’s Spirit suddenly took Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip found himself in Azotus. He traveled through that area, preaching the good news in all the cities until he reached Caesarea.
1 John 4:7-21
7 Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God. 8 The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. 10 This is love: it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins.
11 Dear friends, if God loved us this way, we also ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. If we love each other, God remains in us and his love is made perfect in us. 13 This is how we know we remain in him and he remains in us, because he has given us a measure of his Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the savior of the world. 15 If any of us confess that Jesus is God’s Son, God remains in us and we remain in God.16 We have known and have believed the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who remain in love remain in God and God remains in them. 17 This is how love has been perfected in us, so that we can have confidence on the Judgment Day, because we are exactly the same as God is in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love because God first loved us. 20 If anyone says, I love God, and hates a brother or sister, he is a liar, because the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister who can be seen can’t love God, who can’t be seen. 21 This commandment we have from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also.
I think you know this song:
All you need is Love
All you need is Love
All you need is Love- Love- Love is all you need
And maybe you know this song:
What is love?
Baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me no more.
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.
We have known and believe the love that God has for us.
God is love.
All you need is love.
Love is a universal hunger—we long for it—we write cheesy love songs and do crazy things for love.
We watch movies about love and read magazines about the love lives of celebrities and we try to figure out how to get more love in our lives. It is a hunger that can drive us crazy because we starve for it or it can feed us and fuel us for things beyond what we think is capable. Human love is so slippery—so hard to understand. The Greeks had three different words for love and I think we probably have 47 meanings for the word “love.” We worry about who will love us and who we love.
We fear that we won’t live up to being loved because we know ourselves and who wants to love us.
But. God loves us perfectly and completely.
As I was writing this sermon, I felt like that transition—we think we suck but God loves us—it’s so trite. But every time I tried to edit that line, I couldn’t take it out.
What is love? Well, it’s God… and what is God? God is love—this is a pretty circular text…
how many times do we have to hear this in order to understand?! It’s really so simple.
I can’t ignore that God loves us perfectly and completely.
Because it’s true: God loves us.
Trying to understand who God is is like trying to understand love. “We often yearn for a God who can control nature and prevent sickness or violence, a God who will protect us from all harm.” Because that’s a kind of God we can understand—a God we can make rules about or put into a box.
But this isn’t really who we meet in the Gospels—not really—because a God who controls everything is a flat caricature of the fullness of God we meet in the Scriptures.
God loves us, so we must love one another, in that same way. It’s not the other way around—we don’t love each other so God must love us. Instead, it is the love of God for us that defines us and calls us to love others. We cannot love each other until we understand God’s deep and perfect love for us.
We can actually catch a glimpse of God’s love—we catch in the way in which community gathers, particularly in a community of faith. Where else do we find a community of love that isn’t divided by race, gender, politics, orientation, age, or anything else that separates us from each other?
If we look to the Scriptures we see that we cannot separate God from love. Whenever we encounter God, we encounter love—in creation, in rules, in judgement--- there is so much love. God’s love responds to our human anxiety, fear, doubts as a doctrine we can trust and lean on. And out of that love, we’re called to love in response to God’s perfect love.
Our other text—from Acts is a manifestation of God’s love. There’s something so sad about the Eunuch—here is someone who is rich and works for the powerful and is literate. The Eunuch has so much and yet wonders if the love of God is for him.
The Eunuch has been to worship, and so we know that he wants to believe in God. It’s not so much a question about his ethnicity or race or belief—in the time of the early church, the Jewish tradition would have already been shared with Ethiopia, so we can assume that the Eunuch has been to Jerusalem to worship because he’s Jewish. In the early church, he would have been known as a “God-fearer”, someone who believes in God but hasn’t taken on all the rituals of the Jewish faith, like circumcision, which would have been a little tricky for a eunuch. Even so, the eunuch feels set apart from God, from community. It’s not that the Eunuch is black or that he isn’t part of the early church—instead, it’s his physical condition that would have left him on the outskirts of society. Dueteronomic laws would have cast the Eunuch out of their community of faith because his body is mutilated. I want to be clear about this—it doesn’t matter what color his skin is or what his faith tradition is or his orientation or whatever… what matters in this moment is that he feels unworthy. He’s been cast aside by the world and so believes that God has cast him aside too.
And so he cries out to Phillip—this random man he encounters on the road—“is this promise of God’s love and grace just for Isaiah or is it for me too?” He’s asking if the promises of God’s love is just a story or if it is a living promise for real, living, breathing people. And Phillip is fast. Immediately he goes to the road. Immediately he goes to the chariot. Immediately he opens the scriptures to this man who has known humiliation and suffering. Immediately he responds to the fear and anxiety of the eunuch who asks what prevents him from from experiencing the wide embrace of God’s deep love. Immediately he welcomes the Eunuch into God’s community.
Not because somehow the Eunuch magically changes and becomes part of the human community, but because God’s love is big enough.
There are so many implications of this text for our lives because there is not enough love in the world. There is not enough grace and hope in the world, and so we are called to love—can’t ignore this call and still be Christians.
I’ve been thinking about this text and this call this week and letting it speak to the work we each do here in Pescadero. I’ve been thinking about all the ways in which I see love being the vehicle through which relationships are made and justice is found in our little community that is often so cut off. But I’ve also been thinking about this text as I’ve been listening to stories coming out of Baltimore.
Maybe you’ve seen the video of the mom whose son was on his way to join the riots in Baltimore, after the peaceful protests, he was on his way to throw rocks at the police. She finds him and literally smacks him and screams at him. The whole thing was recorded and this mom has been simultaneously demonized and honored for the way she treated her child.
Is she protecting him?
Is she hurting him?
I’m just so struck by the brokenness of our world—that we distrust mothers.
That's how broken we are--and we can't ignore it.
We cannot ignore how much hurt there is in our world—a world that empowers one part of humanity and systematically cuts out other parts—empowering people who are white and oppressing people who are not.
Unlike for the eunuch—it DOES matter what color skin you have in the United States. It shouldn’t, but it does.
To be welcomed, to be nurtured, to be protected, to be allowed to live—these are rights that should not be tied to the color of our skin. These are rights that should be assumed for ALL people. But they’re not—not in the United States. What Freddie Gray in Baltimore, what Eric Garner in Staten Island, what Michael Brown in Ferguson reminds us is that there is not enough love in this world because black bodies are dying.
As people who are called to love each other, we cannot be silent in the face of the systemic discriminations of our country—we cannot be silent and still—we cannot be silent and expect to be identified as Christians. We must let love guide us. We must become vulnerable and open to the hurt of other people, even as we get opened to the great possibility of love.
This will be hard, because love isn’t a feeling—love is the conscious decision to do what is good for the other. Again: What you feel isn’t enough, the only thing that matters is how we treat each other. And how we treat each other is model on how God treats us. And how God treated us was embodied by Jesus' ministry he—he healed and fed and did everything he could to work for the good of others, no matter who they were, to the point of his death. Reading the stories of Jesus' ministry, "it is not enough to remember Jesus, to think about it, or even to be moved by it. We must live it. To know the God of love is to live the love of God.”
And love extends to everyone---love is all we need.
So, we must lavish love on the people who are protesting—who live lives that are persecuted in our racist society. We must lavish love on young black men who face discrimination and death at disproportionately high rates in the United States. We must lavish love on immigrants and farmworkers—other people of color who are made to disappear into the shadows of our society, because their bodies have not mattered. Our love must know no bounds. But we must also lavish love on the individuals and systems that perpetuate systems of inequality. Because only love can change things.
If we don’t love each other, if we allow our love to be ruled by human divisions of gender, race, ethnicity, class—we lean on fear and fear is not of God. God is love, not fear. What is love? God is love. This is the heart of the Gospels. This is the point of the whole of who we are to be as followers of Jesus. People can’t see God but they can see us. What are we up to? Amen.
 Feasting on the Word 466
 Feasting on the Word 454
 Feasting on the Word 468