I have a cousin, she’s much older than me so I do not know her well, but she struggles with forgiveness, new beginnings, and holding grudges. She is no different than many people. When someone does wrong by us, when someone doesn’t act as we might think they should, many of us cling onto those feelings of hurt, anger, and betrayal. But when we cling so tightly that it can affect our other relationships and make us cynical towards allowing people close to us again, it has a negative affect not only on ourselves but on everyone around us.
In many ways, we often allow other people’s words and actions have way too much control in our lives. We allow them to dictate to us who we are. Those negative emotions and experiences then box us in and taint how we see the world and others. These types of betrayals are much harder to heal and mend than any other wound we could experience. Yet they are the most important for us to work on because until we work on them it hinders our ability to live into God’s love and to truly experience the restorative effects of his love in our lives.
This is part of who we are called to be. As Christians we are called to grapple with the hard questions to find that enlightenment that we seek. As Christians we want others to look on and have no trouble identifying the Christian message. But I fear this is no longer understood in our society. I fear that many no longer put thought into the message of Christ’s life. What are some words that come to your minds that you would use to describe a Christian to someone unfamiliar with Christianity? (allow Congregation to answer)
In our scriptures, we saw as Philip shared with the Ethiopian eunuch the life giving message. He shared the message of Christ with a man who was likely a slave and not considered a full man by Jewish law. Philip shared the message of life that was meant to free the Ethiopian from the emotional and societal constraints that held him back from experiencing a true relationship with God, which we are told is evident in the love that we live in our lives. Christianity is supposed to be about the love of God. Nothing complicated just love for God and one another. Deep life changing love for God and neighbor washes away the judgment, the hurt, the grudges, the fear, the anger, and the pain that sometimes is so evident in the world around us. Gandhi said, “Where there is love; there is life”.
Though not a Christian, Gandhi understood that the key to a happy life is love. The key to a life that makes a difference, a life that changes the world is love. And this is something that is key to being a Christian. Thomas Merton, a 20th century theologian, wrote, “The deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion. It is wordless … beyond speech … beyond concept”. We live to communicate. We live to be in community. We have our friends, our families, those that we care about. What we express in those relationships, the care we give to one another, the concern we take in each other’s life, the love that we express is the key to understanding God and feeling him in our lives.
Though many of us are already baptized, it is important for us not to get lost in technical definitions, the intricate wording of prayers or statements of faith, or the thought that once we are baptized or members that we are somehow done with our quest to know and express God in our lives. We are called to continue working to have experiences like the Ethopian and to help one another have those experiences in their lives as well. And we do so by sharing the love we have experienced and accepting love when others offer it. We are called to let the love of Christ wash over us freeing us from all that hinders us in this life. Freeing us from all that holds us back in our relationships with those close to us and with our neighbors.
Philip felt the love of God through the care of Christ in his life and that love transformed how he lived life. He used that transformative love to reach out and touch the lives of those he met with a care and hospitality grounded in his understanding of the love of God. What he offered the Ethiopian man was a way to transform his life into a life that offered emotional and spiritual healing, a life that offered respect and care and I am sure he brought that message enthusiastically back to his home. We all can use that same care in our lives. We all can use the healing powers and freedom offered to us by a God who is defined as the embodiment of love.
We are called to seek God’s support and courage to boldly live out care for neighbor. We are called to help all those in need find a new life by living into God’s love and not allowing for life’s experiences to dictate to us how we treat one another. It sounds easier than what it actually is. It takes a life time of trying, a lifetime of prayer, a lifetime of God’s guidance to master. But it is worth it because the more people, who live as Christ lived, the more peace this world will begin to experience. So this week, I challenge you to go forth and to search for the love of God in some of the more frustrating times of life. So while you wait in the doctor’s office reflect on how God has touched your life thus far. Choose to wait in the longest line at the grocery store and use that time to reflect upon how God has blessed you. As you wait for that old computer to boot up, reflect on how God is asking more of you in life. Remember the words of John from this morning’s scripture lesson, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us”. Allow these words to transform your lives and the lives of those you meet in life.
 Gandhi, 20th century.
 Thomas Merton, 20th century.
 1 John 4: 11-12, RSV.
(Based on Acts 8: 26-40 and 1 John 4: 7-21)