Today is a beautiful day, with the sunlight lifting our spirits and inviting us out of our dimly lit homes, into our back gardens, walking down tree lined streets, greeting neighbors, and smiling as we see other families and individuals welcoming the sun on their faces, too.
The vines grow faster than we can manage to hold them back. Their branches sprout in each direction and capture the light, bathing in it, and growing deep green in the warmth of these new, young days of spring and summer. The branches of the vine spread leaves everywhere, and they add beauty to our back gardens, wrapped around gates and fences, covering over the dead, brittle twigs that no longer seek the sun.
You and I can tarry in the light of this new day. We can waste away an hour, or an afternoon, or a lifetime, basking in the light of God. But branches that hold too close to the vine, branches that do not spread out into the dangerous places far away, branches that do not grow their own leaves and bring beauty and new life into the garden – these branches – are not long for this world.
We are sent, like St. Philip, to walk along a wilderness road, a road of which to be wary, a road on which to be cautious, a road to a destination that is different from that of our peers, a road which God calls us to walk, to get up from our mats, to leave our darkened rooms, and to find our fate before us. Will our fate be like Philip’s?
Philip finds a chariot on the road, and he hears the reader inside the carriage reading aloud the words of Isaiah, about a Suffering Servant: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth” (Acts 8:32-33).
Philip ventures to speak to the man, a eunuch, a person who would never be welcome in the Temple because his body was not whole, someone who longed for understanding of God, whose people rejected him – a child in faith who had traveled to the place where God dwells, only to be turned away because of a condition which he had no say over, made a eunuch as a child. In no way was it his choice. Through no fault of his own, he was kept at a distance by the people of God, because he was not what they thought a man should be.
But that is exactly how the people of God felt about Jesus of Nazareth, a wandering, itinerant rabbi with no place to lay his head, no wife to call his own, no great family name to pass on to any children, no weapon in his hand, no army to command, no alliances to protect him, and no words against the accusations hurled at him by the people of God. He was not what they thought a messiah should be.
They killed him at the time they killed the sheep for Passover, and he did not speak out in his own defense, his mouth unopened. The crowd chose a bandit over Jesus to be released back to them, and the soldiers stripped him of his clothes and hung him for all to see. Justice was denied him, and he was humiliated and killed. The people of God killed the Son of God.
But God will not permit the world to shut out the light, and God glorified Jesus of Nazareth, and God would surely accept any who sought God with open faith – without denying them entry to a Temple, without accusing them of wickedness because of their difference, without rejecting them – because Christ himself was rejected, and he accepts all the world, even the people of God, even you and me, no matter what we have done or failed to do, no matter who we have loved or failed to love, no matter what we have said or failed to say, no matter what we have thought and felt or failed so to do.
Hear this good news today. And get up from this place to walk your own road in the wilderness. And tell the good news to all who are longing to hear it for themselves. May the whole world rejoice in the light and love of God.