I invite you to join me in a word of prayer. Almighty God, we come this morning, once again grateful for your presence with us and your love towards us. So now we ask that you might hold us, unite us, draw us, most of all, fill us, for the places you are preparing to send us. This we ask in your wonderful name. Amen. You may be seated.

On this morning certainly, what a week it’s been. Certainly for me, the past few days, spending time with leaders who have come from across the country, to get together to be part of a program here at the cathedral called Sacred Spaces, that they might address the systemic issues of racism that exists still in our culture and society. I’m grateful to see some of them who thought it not robbery to get up this morning and to be present here in this place. But there’s something that happens when we get in our minds that we’re going to go to worship. We start to think about, perhaps, what we will take away. For me, I wonder about ‘what is it, Lord, I will learn?’ I wrestle with what is it that I will receive that will transform me. That will change me.

Perhaps like many of you, you start to think about what you’ll hear, what will be read, what will be sung, and all of those perhaps, what you will take away. If you were listening closely, perhaps you heard the lesson, perhaps you heard the letter, perhaps you heard the gospel. And I’m not sure which one you are paying attention to, but truth is, we should have been paying attention to all of them. Even as all of them were lifted, as they were read. And in coming this morning, even in this preaching moment, while there are numerous directions and roads that could be selected for the preaching journey on any Sunday morning, I must admit, as I considered the appointed scriptures for this Sunday, they placed me and perhaps for that matter they have placed us, at an intersection where decisions are often made. What were you paying attention to? In the preaching moment, I am consistently clear where I will arrive. I know that I will be taking a journey, but to get there, I have to weigh my options. Options that can be both challenging as well as inspiring. I am always clear that my destination will help me reach a place that is only seen as a result of being apprehended and gripped by the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I cannot help but wrestle this morning with my desire to help all of us reach our good news destination.

Let me be clear. I want to reach that good news destination. While in listening this morning, whether it be through the vine, whether it be through the letter of love, I want to be able to reach and take this journey. And I could have chosen perhaps the road offered in the letter, or the road offered by the gospel, or the road offered by Acts. But for just a moment, I’m inviting you to take a journey with me and it doesn’t require anything from you but your faith. Doesn’t charge anything from your pocket. It’s not anything that you have to give out, but this journey requires a little bit of your faith. While I was caught in the tension of choosing which road to take to reach our destination this morning, I was compelled by the spirit to take the wilderness road. I was compelled by the Spirit after spending time with strangers who are now friends, to get on the wilderness road that would lead me in the direction of Gaza.

I’m not choosing the direction because I chose it. I’m not choosing the direction because I felt like it was just the fad or thing to do. I find myself in a moment where the scripture was placed right in front of me and I can choose to skip it, go around it or face it. And if we’re honest this morning, there are times in all of our lives that we’re invited, or called to take, what may be characterized as the road less traveled. There are some who are familiar with this description made famous by M. Scott Peck, and I hate to admit, almost 50 years ago. The reading of Acts puts us on the Gaza Road at a time when many, in just hearing that, recognize division. At a time when raising that, it can make some of us uncomfortable. At a time when lifting it, we recognize that there’s trouble in the world. At a time when it’s just in front of us, we get hung up with all of the issues that can divide us rather than focusing on perhaps what can unite us. If we had our options, I know many in here would desire to choose a road a little less bumpy, a road perhaps that did not have tolls on it, perhaps a road where there weren’t as many detours and off ramps. Maybe you would’ve chosen a road where there were scenic views, rest stops along the way, where we could pick up what would satisfy us, please us, and comfort us.

But Luke, in this writing in The Acts of the Apostle, tells us that an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go down toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza”. I’m not painting the picture. The picture is already painted for us. I’m not raising what is in the news. It is in the scripture, to get on the road between Jerusalem to Gaza, the wilderness road. Many of us would never want to go into the wilderness, but Philip, who is one of the seven servants chosen by the church as a result of division, as a result of the chaos, as a result of what was separating one side from another. Philip was a servant who was selected to deal perhaps in the space that kept one from being connected to another. Philip, a servant who was prepared for just such a time as is in the text. The text calls a division, ‘murmurings’. Murmurings that happen inside the church, but now Philip is being called to do his work outside of the community perhaps he had become comfortable with. Because sometimes we can become so comfortable on the inside, we forget that there’s work to be done on the outside.

I can only imagine Philip must have heard the angel and he said, ‘God, what are you up to?’ It may not be what many of you want to admit openly this morning, but I know I’ve got company in here, that there are times where I cannot figure out God, ‘O, what are you up to?’ After reading the options of the scriptures, looking at the text and I’m faced with Jerusalem, with Gaza, I had to say, ‘God, what are you up to? Could you have given this maybe to one of my colleagues?’ Philip receives divine guidance and direction to go to the south, but it required his faith. It required his faith, and to get on a wilderness road this morning, to be able to take the road less traveled, all of us are gonna have to grab a little bit of our faith. Martin Luther King describe faith in this manner, ‘Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.’ Perhaps this morning we need to get on the wilderness road and just take a step to closing some of the division that is between us, so that we might be able to celebrate the things that unite us. Too many times we are unwilling to take the first step until we see the whole staircase. This modern day culture in which we live has allowed so many of us to never have to deal with the mystery of faith, and the road between our questions and our answer. Almost anything that we want to know, or everything we want to know, or believe that we need to know, in this modern day culture, instead of taking it to God in prayer, we simply take it to Google in search.

Philip set out on the road and encountered an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Kandake, Queen of the Ethiopians, who is in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship. And he was returning home, seated in his chariot and reading the prophet Isaiah. If you are listening and paying attention, we see this Ethiopian, we see this eunuch, we see this worshiper. We see this treasurer who’s sitting in a chariot. And the spirit said to Philip, ‘Get up. Go over to this chariot and join it’. Philip could have made a case to avoid this whole situation. Philip could have made a choice to choose to not get on the wilderness road, to get on the Gaza road. He could have made a choice to avoid this Ethiopian. He could have made a choice to not deal with this eunuch.

He could have made a choice to stay away from this chariot. But because of this gripping good news of a risen savior, he went up and made a connection. Because of the gripping good news of Jesus Christ, Philip did not see just an Ethiopian. Philip did not see just someone from the south. Philip did not see a citizen of another country that he could call stranger. Philip did not see just a eunuch with all of its sexual and gender overtones that could keep us from getting one to the other. That even in that day, eunuchs were not allowed in the innermost court of the temple but were excluded. Because they were part of the mistreated, the marginalized, and the ostracized. Philip saw the rider in the chariot as someone though who was trying to simply have a relationship with God.

And before we put our labels on each other, can we see each other just trying to get closer to God? Before we start putting on the labels and demographics and the lines and all of the labels that we wear so proudly that put us one above the other hierarchical instead of relational, can we just see each other as trying to get closer to God? After all, the Ethiopian had come to worship and was returning home wrestling with scripture. Philip decided to get close, and I want to tell you, you ought to get close to sometimes those who don’t look like you, who don’t sound like you, who are not you. We need to get closer to one another, because as believers in Jesus Christ, we do our best work at the intersections of life. We do our best work at the crossroads of confusion. We do our best work at the core of human existence. Our best work is accomplished not by standing on the sidelines or at the outskirts of the real issues.

Our best work is done in the midst of where the burden is heavy, where the troubles are at their worst, where the tears are being shed, where the hearts are being broken, where the hungry need to be fed, where the sick need to get well. We have a gospel and good news that speaks to those that are suppressed. We have a gospel of good news that speaks to those who are oppressed. We have a gospel of good news that speak to those who are despondent, those who have despair. And truth is, there may be some in this room who when they read the pages, when you look at the news, you are despondent. You have despair. But I’m here telling you that we’ve got a gospel of good news that grips us, holds us, energizes us, lifts us, empowers us and moves us. We have a gospel of good news that breaks in and breaks up the discordant notes of life.

We have a gospel that is a balm in the midst of bitter moments. We’ve got a gospel that is light even in the midst of the dark night of the soul, and for my Macedonians that are here, we’ve got a gospel that no matter how dark it gets, there’s a bright side somewhere. We are called not to hold, not to hold that good news, but to take that good news everywhere we go. We need to take that good news so that someone can know the love of God. Take that good news so that someone may understand the sacrifice of our our savior. Take that good news so that someone may feel the presence and power of the spirit. We are called to stand in a time when the Gaza Road is filled with hurting, filled with crying, filled with life, filled with death. We are called to take the good news when those who are suffering need to hear that there is good news. Philip was overwhelmed. He was so overwhelmed, so caught up and so apprehended by the gripping good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ that he told himself, ‘I must take the road less traveled. I must take the connection and make a connection with someone who is seeking God and that I must tell the story’.

And if we’re to speak of a God who loves us, a savior who gave his life for us, and a spirit whose presence is with us, then we’ve got to be able to face those ‘I must’ moments. Thank you, Canon Duncan, who last week convicted us and reminded us about the ‘I am’ statements which call our attention to who Jesus is and moves us to recognize who we are as followers of Jesus Christ. But there are also moments where we must realize as servants that we need to challenge the injustice and the inequities because we have to face ‘I must’ moments. It was Jesus himself that said, “’I must’ proclaim the good news of the kingdom”. It was Jesus himself as a young child who told his parents early when they were looking for him, he says, young child, “why were you looking for me? Did you not know that ‘I must’ be in my father’s house?” It was Jesus himself that explained to his disciples, “’I must’ go to Jerusalem and suffer many things, but on the third day be raised to life”. It was Jesus himself that told those who were listening that, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen and ‘I must’ bring them also”. It was Jesus himself who would tell those who would listen, “As long as it is day ‘we must’ do the works of him that sent me”.

Well, I’m prayerful today that as followers of Jesus Christ, as disciples of Jesus Christ, that we too might be gripped by the gospel and good news and we might commit to telling the story. You don’t have to make it fancy. As a matter of fact, you’ll be saying it in just a few moments. You don’t have to tell the story in all of these here great theological terms, and you don’t have to put it in fancy words. Just simply tell the story. ‘Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again’. You don’t have to make it all up, it’s right before us. And like today, I’m committed to telling a story. And in the rest of my life, I’m committed to sharing the good news. I’m committed to letting others know about the love of Jesus Christ because there’s something about that story that when you share it with someone else, there’s something about that story. When someone shares it with you, it changes something in you. ‘I love to tell the story of unseen things above, of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and his love. I love to tell the story, because I know it’s true. It satisfies my longing as nothing else would do’.

There’s something when two or three get together, there’s something when you start to talk about the story, and I thank my good friend, Dr. Paul Smith, who lately, when I’ve lost some of my hope lately, he sent me back to look at a video of him and Dr. Andrew Young, Ambassador Young, sharing a story. And as they talked about Jesus Christ, they broke out in song and they started singing that old great song that said, “I got a feeling everything is going to be all right. I’ve got a feeling everything is going to be all right. I’ve got a feeling everything is going to be all right. Be all right. Be all right. Be all right.” But for those in the midst of on our way to Pentecost, it doesn’t stop there. There’s another verse that says, “The Holy Ghost done told me, everything is going to be all right. The Holy Ghost done told me everything is going to be all right, and today I’m committed to telling the world because of Christ, everything is gonna be all right”.


The Rev. Canon Leonard L. Hamlin, Sr.

Canon Missioner and Minister of Equity & Inclusion