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Homily: "Come, Eat, and Be Filled."

A homily preached at the new Immanuel Chapel-VTS in Alexandria, VA on April 23, 2015.

Acts 8:26-40; Ps. 66:14-18; John 6:44-51

I speak to you in the Name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

           There was a happy accident that happened this past Saturday, just down the hill and across the street from here, at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill. We host a Breakfast Bible Study that Chrissie, my wife, and another, lead on the third Saturday of each month. It was a lovely morning after the storms the night before, and as we drove to the church, we noticed the traffic signals were out. Arriving at the church, we found it dark. So we began to improvise the breakfast, and found a table set up on the back patio that had been abandoned the night before due to weather. We had this lovely setting looking out to our memorial garden, and, thankfully, we could still cook most of the breakfast on our gas stove. Then the power came on during our preparations which allowed for coffee to be brewed and the bagels to be toasted. We were all set. God is good!

           I mention that because our invitation to Breakfast Bible Study is “Come, Eat, and Be Filled.” And considering today’s readings from the Acts of the Apostles and John’s Gospel, I quickly had a title for this homily.

           Today’s lesson from Acts tells of the encounter that Philip has with the Ethiopian eunuch. The Angel of the Lord had first directed Philip to go south, and then the Spirit compelled him to approach the eunuch’s chariot. Those are certainly ‘holy nudges.’ Hearing the eunuch reading from the prophet Isaiah,

Philip asks if he knew what he was reading. The eunuch replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And there you have it friends, a Bible Study group, right there on the side of the road, between Jerusalem and Gaza.

           Gathering together around scripture allows us to 1) formulate our own understanding of the text; 2) to enter into a dialogue in community; and 3) to act. The study method we use for our breakfast gathering is the African Model of Reflection, where we employ three different translations or interpretations of the reading while offering questions to guide our discussion. If you are not already familiar with this method, talk to me; I was heartened recently to hear that a priest I consider to be an elder statesperson in our Church endorses this particular manner of study.

           But back to Philip and the eunuch. It is important to note the eunuch was reading aloud so Philip could know what he was studying. And hearing those words from Isaiah, “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth,” Philip had his opening to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Philip heard, listened and acted, and the eunuch was open to receive the Word. Having heard and received the Word, then finding water along the way, the eunuch asks Philip if he might be baptized. Having done the work of the Lord in that place, the Spirit carried Philip away to continue spreading the Gospel elsewhere.

           I find it important and meaningful, when I read Morning Prayer alone, to read aloud. There is something more powerful about scripture when it is not only read, but is also heard. Taking scripture in through reading and hearing seems to help it find its way more profoundly to my head and to my heart. Plus, the added benefit of hearing something aloud, allows others to know what you are doing when they happen along, and it may be the catalyst to invite them to join you.

           In John’s Gospel, following the feeding of the Five Thousand and Jesus walking on the water, Jesus is again teaching. Here we come to see it is only the humble, teachable ones who hear and understand what the Father says. Jesus makes the simple, unequivocal assertion, “I am the bread of life.” The contrast with all physical bread, particularly the manna given their fathers in the wilderness, is sharply drawn. That bread, Jesus says, they ate and are dead. But Jesus is “the bread” which comes down from heaven. His coming into the world is once for all. The Incarnation will not be repeated! The living bread, which is his flesh, is given, not just for those to whom He speaks, but for the whole world. Jesus knows their hunger and knows what they need.

           So, whether they be happy accidents, or ‘holy nudges,’ or acts of obedience, the call is the same: Come, Eat, and Be Filled. Thankfully, through fellowship, food, and the Word, all are invited, and those who come, will be fed and satisfied.