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  • Writer's picturePastor Elaine

Fifth Sunday of Easter: An Invitation to be Baptized

“What is to prevent me from being baptized?”

May the words from my lips and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, O God”

The Book of Acts is full of dramatic stories.  Our reading today is an unlikely dramatic story of a miracle and a baptism and a lesson in grace.  It is a story of responding to the Holy Spirit and being where God needs you to be.

Philip was one of the seven chosen to be table servers, he was not one of the apostles.  He was a Hellenistic evangelist who was preaching the good news in Samaria - a place the Jews would not want to go!

Philip is visited by an angel - a messenger who instructs him to take the road out of town - a wild and wilderness area.  He does not hesitate but gets up and goes immediately.  Who among us would? 

Because Philip responded, he was where he needed to be.  He sees the chariot driving by and has to run to catch up.  He is successful and sees the man reading the scroll.  The man in the chariot invites him up and the teaching begins.

The man in the chariot is identified by where he is from, his station in life and his sexual identity.  We are never told his name, although the Church father Irenaeus called him Simeon Bachos.  Today we will do the same.  This Simeon was a man of high station, in charge of the treasury of a Queen.  He was also a man of means, as he has been able to acquire the scroll of Isaiah.  He was a man of learning and curiosity about faith.  We are told that he is returning home after coming to Jerusalem to worship.  In all probability he was a Jew.  We don’t know where he worshiped in Jerusalem or anything about his time in the city.  

He was also set apart because of his status as a Eunuch.  In the Greco Roman world he would have been considered as less than a man because he was unable to father children.  

Philip does not see the differences in rank or status.  Philip sees and hears someone who is searching.  A faithful person who wants to learn.  An open heart and mind.  Simeon asks Philip the burning question - is the prophet talking about himself or about someone else? Who is this person who was denied justice?  The subtext might be, 'Could it be me?' This is where Philip takes over and tells Simeon about Jesus. 

Philip is in the right place at the right time.  He is part of a miracle.  He is an instrument of grace.

And the miraculous nature of the conversion continues.  They are in the wilderness, in the desert and suddenly Simeon sees water.

“What is to prevent me from being baptized?”

Some people might have responded well, you have not been coming to Church long enough or you need to do a 14 week course in preparation for baptism.  Or you need to wait till an appropriate time or place.

That’s not what happens in this story.

We do not have Philip’s response, but I imagine that it went something like this - there is nothing to prevent you from being baptized!

Philip and Simeon enter the water together - Philip baptized Simeon and they leave the water  together. They are siblings in Christ.  Simeon is a symbol of how the Good News would go to the ends of the earth.  He was the first to be baptized from his country.  He departs full of joy.  Full of faith. Full of the Holy Spirit.

And we are told that Philip was sent onward by the Holy Spirit to continue his work.  To continue sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.  To talk of the risen Lord.  

Philip was in the right place at the right time because he listened to the messenger.  He made a convert of Simeon, but his work was not done.  He had more stories to tell.

Baptism is not the end of our faith journeys - it is the beginning as it was for Simeon of Ethiopia.  

I would like to invite you to turn to a sister or brother near you and share the story of your baptism or perhaps someone close to you.

Who brought you to the water? Who told you the story of God’s love?

Time to share stories

The story of Simeon and Philip that we heard today raises the issue - who is worthy to be baptized?

The answer must be EVERYONE.

God’s grace is inclusive.  God’s love is inclusive.  And ours must be as well.



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