Scripture for this Sunday (5th Sunday of Easter): Acts 8:26-40; Psalm 22:25-31; 1 John 4:7-21; John 15:1-8
It might be a slight overstatement to suggest that Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian in Acts 8 was a rescue, but in a way there was a rescue from uncertainty and confusion.
Much more recently, a story in the news was of the rescue of another Ethiopian – well, Eritrean, but the distinction is a modern one – Wegasi Nebiat, by a Greek, Antonis Deligiorgis. She was a refugee on a yacht that foundered on the rocks of the Greek island of Rhodes; he was a soldier off duty on the beach who waded into the water to save her and a number of others. The refugee crisis continues to beset the European countries that border the Mediterranean. We need to remember that to place oneself and one’s children in a flimsy boat says much about the lack of safety of the land.
Nevertheless, the rescue of Wegasi by Antonis, like the humanitarian response to the earthquake in Nepal, shines the light of a glimmer of hope into a world where the darkness of disaster seems to loom constantly. The hope is that it is now culturally expected that we will give assistance to those in need, something that would not necessarily have been the norm before Jesus. The Christian ethic of helping one’s neighbour is a small sign that the “Kingdom” of which Jesus spoke has, in fact come a little nearer.
The gift of Christ’s legacy, as well as showing how to love one’s neighbour, calls us to consider what our faith gives us to share. If we are the branches and Christ is the vine, then we will be nourished by God’s Spirit, but we must pass on that nourishment so that fresh growth may occur. For example, Philip was one who himself had been asking questions – of Jesus – not long before; and being open to the guidance of the Spirit, he was able to be in the right place at the right time to answer the Ethiopian’s questions.
Our challenge is similarly to be open for discernment and guidance to be shaped as God would have us be; maybe even to be rescuers of those in need. Jesus himself tells us that a relationship with God in which God continues to form us is the source of our ability to live creatively and gracefully in the world.
We can only be formed if we are open to transformation. We can only be open to transformation if we accept that we need help. We can only receive help if we are willing to listen and hear. We can only be open to listen and hear if we are willing to ask questions.