Easter 5

Home Up

May 18, 2003

Prayer of the Day
O God, form the minds of your faithful people into a single will. Make us love what you command and desire what you promise, that, amid all the changes of this world, our hearts may be fixed where true joy is found; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Acts 8:26-40
{26} Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." (This is a wilderness road.) {27} So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship {28} and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. {29} Then the Spirit said to Philip, "Go over to this chariot and join it." {30} So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" {31} He replied, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. {32} 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 silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. {33} In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth." {34} The eunuch asked Philip, "About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?" {35} Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. {36} As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?" {37} {38} He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. {39} When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. {40} But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

 26. angel of the Lord: This is "a standard Hebrew expression…used in older OT books as a theophanic element to express the presence of God to his people or to bring them messages (Gen 16:7-11; 21:17; 22:10-18; 31:11-13; Exod 3:2-6; Judg 2:1-5)."  [1]It is used several times in Luke’s Gospel and Acts. In verse 29 it is "the Spirit" who tells Philip what to do.
Philip: This Philip is the one chosen as a deacon in Acts 6:5 not Philip the disciple (Acts 1:13).
to Gaza: One of the five chief cities of the Philistines (Joshua 13:3). Present day Gaza.
27. eunuch: "The [eunoukos "eunuch"] of the LXX is often used, like [eunoukos] and [saris; both ‘castrated male’] elsewhere, for high military and political officials; it does not have to imply emasculation." [2] According to Deuteronomy 23:1, eunuchs were excluded from "the assembly of the Lord." On the other hand Yahweh promised "eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant.... a monument and a name better than sons and daughters.... an everlasting name that shall not be cut off" (Isaiah 56:4-5). "Since the term for eunuch (sāris) can also describe an official in a foreign court, it has been suggested that the issue of Isa. 56:3-7 involved either Jewish proselytes in Babylon or eunuch who served in some capacity in a more local syncretistic setting, and who were seeking admission to the Jewish cult." [2a] . Whatever the meaning of the word eunoukos, where "castrated male" or an official of some kind, the story in Acts certainly has the promise in Isaiah as a part of its context. Even such people, who were apparently excluded from the Temple, will be accepted by God.
court official
: Greek dynastēs is used to translate the Hebrew sāris, eunuch, in Jeremiah 34:19, where, because the eunuchs together with religious officials are being held accountable for the cultic act of making a covenant, it probably also is unlikely to mean a castrated male. Hans Conzelmann insists that the man had been castrated. [3] Witherington says that a eunuch was "often also dismembered," [4] which would have rendered circumcision impossible.
Candace: Although used here as a proper name, the word candace is actually the word for "queen" in Nubian.
Ethiopians: "Contemporary interpretation has long identified ‘Ethiopia’ and ‘Candace queen of the Ethiopians’ in Acts viii.27 with the Kingdom of Meroe [Nubia]. The term ‘Ethiopia’ was applied to the countries south of Egypt: Nubia, Abyssinia, and beyond that to such other regions as could conveniently be included under the name  [Aithiops] (the people with the ‘burnt face’). [5]
treasury: In Greek the word is gazes, spelled the same as Gaza. "It is not impossible that Luke intends a pun between  [Gaza], the place, and [gaza], treasure. [6]
32-33: The passage he was reading was Isaiah 53:7-8 in the Septuagint (LXX). "the words of the prophet describe the silent suffering of the Servant of the Lord; he is compared to a mute animal about to be shorn or slaughtered; for he was unjustly condemned and executed, and no one would ever hear of his posterity. Luke understands these words of Isaiah to refer to the crucifixion and death of Jesus…. What is noteworthy is that Luke does not quote the verse about the vicarious suffering of the Servant, which would have been so important for the interpretation that Philip would give to the eunuch." [7]
34. About whom…does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else? Three interpretations were available: the servant is a) Israel; b) the prophet himself; c) Elijah or the Messiah. Philip interprets the servant as the Messiah and the Messiah as Jesus.
36. What is to prevent me from being baptized? This is the first baptism of a non-Israelite, although presumably the Ethiopian official was a Jew or a proselyte.
39. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away: The Western text reads: "the Holy Spirit fell upon the eunuch, but the angel of the Lord snatched Philip away." There is no explicit description of the Spirit coming upon the Ethiopian before his baptism, as there is in the case of Cornelius, for example (Acts 10:44-48). However, "an angel of the Lord" sent Philip to the Gaza road (verse 26) and the "Spirit" sent him to the Ethiopian (verse 29) before snatching him away to Azotus.
40. Philip found himself at Azotus: Azotus is the Old Testament Ashdod. See 2 Kings 2:16 and Ezekiel 11:24 for references to being snatched by God from one place to another.
until he came to Caesarea: More than fifty miles north. According to Acts 21:8 Philip lived at Caesarea Maritima, and hosted Paul when he returned to Jerusalem for the last time.

Psalm 22:25-31
{25} From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him. {26} The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD. May your hearts live forever! {27} All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him. {28} For dominion belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations. {29} To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him. {30} Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, {31} and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.

 26. The poor shall eat and be satisfied: "We should probably assume that the song of praise and thanksgiving of vv. 22-31 was intoned at a meal for the poor in connection with an offering." [8]  Not only does Yahweh care for Israel, Yahweh also rules the nations, and they worship him. It is here that the connection with the first lesson is made.
27. all…the nations: Cf. 1 Kings 8:41-43: Solomon prays that Yahweh will hear the prayer of a foreigner who is not of the people of Israel, when (s)he prays toward the Temple. The Ethiopian was such a one.
29. all who sleep…all who go down to the dust: The psalmist believes that the dead still worship Yahweh. His belief is different from that in Psalm 6:5 or 30:9-10.
30-31. Posterity…people yet unborn: Future generations, even the unborn will also serve him.

1 John 4:7-21
{7} Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. {8} Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. {9} God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. {10} In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. {11} Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. {12} No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. {13} By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. {14} And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. {15} God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. {16} So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. {17} Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. {18} There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. {19} We love because he first loved us. {20} Those who say, "I love God," and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. {21} The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

   Love comes from God, who sent his Son into the world to atone for our sins so we might have life. Whoever claims to love God and does not love his brothers and sisters in Christ is a liar  because one cannot love the Father and not love the Father’s children. God’s commandment to those who follow Jesus is "those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also." This becomes Jesus’ commandment also (John 15:12). This love is not optional; if we do not love our brothers and sisters whom we have seen, we cannot love God whom we have not seen. This is the fruit which we are to bear in the Gospel for next Sunday (John 15:9-13).

John 15:1-8
{1} "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. {2} He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. {3} You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. {4} Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. {5} I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. {6} Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. {7} If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. {8} My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

 1-5. I am the true vine: This is the last of seven "I am" statements in John (John6:35;8:12; 10:7; 10:11; 11:25; 14:6). [9] "The four features in the analogy here are: the vine = Jesus, the branches = the disciples, the pruner = the Father, and the fruit = outcomes of the relationship. The theme being underscored is that of enduring relationship with Jesus on the part of each disciple and the joyous outcome of this relationship." [10]
vine: The metaphor of "vine" is occasionally used of Israel in the Old Testament (Psalm 80:8; Jeremiah 2:21; Hosea 10:1). But here Jesus, and the people are the branches taking their identity and nourishment from him. Apart from him they can do nothing; with him they will bear much fruit.
4. abide: "John uses the word to indicate loyalty or deep attachment….Since antisociety membership implied a sharp break with the dominant social order, loyalty was always a matter of concern." [11] The disciples have been "cleansed by the word I have spoken to you," that is, Jesus’ whole teaching. See 1 John 2:24.
6. such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned: Those who are not loyal to Jesus are unfruitful branches and prunings and will be destroyed.
8. My Father is glorified: This is the whole purpose of Jesus’ mission, that the Father be glorified. "We have heard in John (xii 28; xiii 31-32, xxiv 13) that the Father was glorified in the mission of the Son; but now that the Son has completed his mission of bringing life to men, the Father is glorified in the continuation of that mission by His Son’s disciples…. in Johannine thought the glorification of the Father in the disciples is not merely a question of praise by others; it is rooted in the life of the disciples as a sharing of Jesus’ life…. ‘Becoming my disciples’ involves love of Jesus… and love of one another…. The love of the disciple for his fellow Christian must be so great that he is willing to lay down his life (13)." [12]

The first lesson makes it clear that disabilties, such as impotence, will no longer be a cause for exclusion from the worshipping community. The Ethiopian had come to Jerusalem to worship, and now he is instructed by Philip. Perhaps he could be a model for the way in which we respond to those who are outside the normal (the physically or mentally disabled, the homosexual, the pedophile). While the condition remains the person is accepted as a part of the worshipping community, at least by God.
   The second lesson admonishes us to "love one another," to "love God…love their brothers and sisters also," because "as he is, so are we in this world." The thrust of the Gospel is that we are branches on the vine that is Jesus; we partake of his nature, and we are expected to bear fruit as he did. The Ethiopian in the first lesson illustrates, on the one hand, the love of Christ bearing fruit in Philip, and on the other hand, the opening of the proclamation of the Gospel to the non-Israelite world.
   Step by step the proclamation of the Gospel moves from Judea, to Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. This is the purpose of God proclaimed by Jesus in Acts 1:8, and it is the theme of the book of Acts.

Hymns [13]
With One Voice (e.g. 762v), Hymnal Supplement 1991 (e.g. 725s) and LBW (e.g. 32).
E=Entrance; D=Hymn of the Day; I=First Lesson, P=Psalm; II=Second Lesson; G=Gospel

155 --E--Praise the Savior,       
210 --D--At the Lamb's           
378 --D--Amid the World's     
189 --I--We Know That         
696v --I--I've Just Come from
831s --II--God of the             
270 --II--God of Our              

765v --II--Jesu, Jesu (803s)  
665v --II--Ubi Caritas          
674v --G--Alleluia! Jesus      
700v --G--I Received (761s)
695v --G--O Blessed           
       508, 306, 133, 817s, 786v

Prayers of the People [14]
A: To bear fruit as a disciple is to receive life, show love, and tell the good news. We pray, therefore, "Source of life, grant fruitfulness", and we respond, C: Alleluia, Amen.
A: That the Lutheran Church of Papua, New Guinea, may experience continued growth in faith and love as it becomes a "sending church" in the world. Source of life, grant fruitfulness. C: Alleluia, Amen.
A: That all countries of the world may work together for understanding and peace. Source of life, grant fruitfulness. C: Alleluia, Amen.
A: That the senior members of our congregation may be honored and enjoy self-esteem as Christ's servants. Source of life, grant fruitfulness. C: Alleluia, Amen.
A: That the youthful members may find full inclusion in the ministry of our congregation. Source of life, grant fruitfulness. C: Alleluia, Amen.
A: That the people of middle years in our congregation may experience increasing worth and integrity in their service to Christ and his church. Source of life, grant fruitfulness. C: Alleluia, Amen.
A: That the novices and those new to the faith may learn what it is to be in Christ's service, Source of life, grant faithfulness. C: Alleluia, Amen.
When the Brief Order for Confession and Forgiveness is not used, the following may be said:
A: The shortfall of our concern in the church and world brings death in so many ways, and contradicts the message of a risen Christ. Forgive us. Source of life, grant fruitfulness. C: Alleluia, Amen.
P: Speak more, O Savior, that we might not live in a manner less than is worthy of your name. C: Amen.

Or [15]

Presider or deacon
Christ has gathered us as branches of the true vine. Let us offer prayers to God who does for us whatever we ask.
Deacon or other leader
For the whole world and all the churches of God. 
For this holy gathering and our sacrifice of praise of thanksgiving.
For NN and all the baptized whose faces shine with the light of Christ.
For all who minister and for all the holy people of God.
For all nations, peoples, tribes, clans, and families.
For all those in danger and need: the sick and the suffering, prisoners, captives, and their families, the hungry, homeless, and oppressed.
For the dying and the dead.
For ourselves, our families, and those we love.
Remembering our most glorious and blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, let us offer ourselves and one another to the living God through Christ. To you, O Lord.
Blessed are you, O Lord our God , who abides in all who love you. Hear the prayers we offer this day and give us your Spirit of peace to love our brothers and sisters. Glory to you for ever and ever.

[1] Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Acts of the Apostles: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. New York: Doubleday, 1992, p. 335.
[2] Johannes Schneider, “ [eunoukos]” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. ed. by Gerhard Kittel. Grand Rapids: Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964. Vol. 2, p. 766.
[2a] Brevard S. Childs, Isaiah, Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001, p. 437.
[3] Hans Conzelmann, Acts of the Apostles, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987, p. 68.
[4] Ben Witherington III, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998, p. 296.
[5] Edward Ullendorff, “Candace (Acts VIII.27) and the Queen of Sheba,” New Testament Studies 2(1955)53. The official’s Judaism would be attributed to the connection between King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba from which a son, Menelik, was born who brought Judaism (and the Ark of the Covenant) to Ethiopia (Abyssinia). The Ethiopian Orthodox church claims this connection as the source of Judaism, and the eunuch as the source of Christianity in Ethiopia.
[6] C.K. Barrett, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1994, Vol. 1, p. 425.
[7] Fitzmyer, Ibid., pp. 413f.
[8] Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 60-150: A Commentary. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1989, p. 299.
[9] Raymond E. Brown discusses the phrase ego eimi, “I am” in Appendix IV of his commentary on John, The Gospel According to John (i-xii), Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1966,   p. 531-538.
[10] Bruce J. Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh, Social-Science Commentary on the Gospel of John, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998, p. 233.
[11] Ibid., p. 55.
[12] Brown, Ibid., p. 680.
[13] http://www.worship.ca/text/wpch0203.txt
[14] http://www.worship.ca/text/inter_b1.txt
[15] http://members.cox.net/oplater/prayer.htm