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    Jul 02, 2017

    CSI: Water

    Passage: Acts 8:26-39

    Speaker: Michael E. Karunas

    Series: God

    Category: Faith

    Sermon Delivered at Central Christian Church July 2, 2017 Rev. Michael E. Karunas Text: Acts 8:26-39 “CSI: Water”

    Today is week 4 of our sermon series we’re calling CSI: Christian Symbols Interpreted.  Each week we’re looking at a different, traditional symbol that we see on a regular basis in our worship life here at Central and talking about what it means.

    We’ve also been moving from the back of the sanctuary to the front.  We started in the way back with week 1, light – and the candlelight (representing the presence of God) that our acolytes bring into the sanctuary as we begin worship.  Week 2 was boat (or ship) – which represents God’s protection in the storms of life.  As we enter the sanctuary and look up we see that our ceiling is in the shape of an over-turned boat.  Week 3 brought us up to the pulpit, where we see the letters I.H.S. (an abbreviation of Jesus) – which remind us that Jesus is the source of our hope.  And today we come all the up to the front of the sanctuary – and the baptistery – where we find the symbol of water.  And we know that water is used every time someone is baptized into the Christian faith.

    Two weeks ago we talked about how water and “the sea” in scripture was a place of chaos.  Water represented storms and danger, mysteriousness and upheaval.  But water is also a symbol of transformation in scripture.  When Jesus produced wine at a wedding banquet, he didn’t create it out of thin air.  He took the water that was there and transformed it into wine.  He showed us that there’s  always more than meets the eye with him, and that in his hands the ordinary things of life can become extra-ordinary.

    Water is also a symbol of hospitality.  When Jesus washed his disciples’ feet – with water – he was following the custom of a good host, who would provide water and a towel to visitors when they arrived.  They would have wanted to wash their feet as they had been walking in sandals on dusty roads.  And water can also be a sign of healing and physical cleansing.  When Jesus restored sight to a blind man, he did so by having him wash his eyes in water (in a place called the Pool of Siloam).  But today we focus on water as a symbol of spiritual cleansing.  Our scripture reading is from Acts 8 and tells the story of Philip (a disciple of Jesus) and the conversion of a servant from Ethiopia.  Read Acts 8:26-38

    There were many stages and steps involved in the conversion of this servant from Ethiopia.  First, Philip was responsive to the angel of God.  When the angel said “get up and go,” he got up and went.  He did what the angel said, because he heard what the angel said… which ultimately means he was listening for the voice of God.  To be a good disciple is to listen for the voice of God speaking, because we never know when it will come or what it will say to us.  So this conversion needed the faith of Philip to trust in the voice of God enough to stop whatever he was doing and forego whatever plans he might have had to “get up and go,” even though he didn’t have the final picture in view of where he was headed.

    As he “gets up and goes” as the angel directed him, he encounters a servant of the Ethiopian queen travelling back to Ethiopia from Jerusalem.  And the second thing that happens in this conversion is that Philip simply runs (walks) alongside the chariot in which the servant is riding.  Philip simply journeys with the man; just accompanies him on his journey.  Third, he pays attention to the servant, by noticing that he’s reading scripture and then asking him questions.  He doesn’t assume he knows anything about him.  He doesn’t preach to him or teach or lecture him about scripture.  He asks the servant to tell him about his life.  What are you reading?  Do you understand it?

    Next, he waits and follows the servant’s lead.  Only when the servant says, “Get in,” does he get in the chariot with him.  Only when the servant asks him, “Do you know what this scripture means?” does Philip begin speaking.  Otherwise he waits.  In VBS this week one of the bible points we learned was that God gives us patience.  We know that it often takes great courage to act, but it takes even more courage to wait; to not act but rather exercise patience instead.  But only after all of these other steps were taken did Philip speak and did the conversion take place.  Philip told the servant about the Good News of Jesus Christ and the servant believed.  We know he believed because the chariot comes to water.  And the servant says, “What’s preventing me from being baptized?”  Of course the answer is “nothing” and so Philip baptizes him.

    And so we come to water.

    Water, in the days of scripture and today is used in baptism.  It symbolizes conversion.  Baptism with water comes after receiving the Good News of Jesus Christ and believing it – that through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we are forgiven and saved.  Water and baptism symbolize spiritual change.  Before his baptism the servant needed Philip in his life.  That’s why the angel said “get up and go” at the beginning of the story.  But after this baptism, he didn’t.  Philip disappeared.  He’s off on another journey.  But the servant didn’t need him anyway, because he had Christ.

    Before his baptism the servant lacked understanding.  He didn’t comprehend what he was reading.  But his baptism with water symbolized that he had received the truth.  To be clear, none of us – when we are baptized – has all knowledge and understanding.  But we do have sufficient understanding.  We understand enough to know that he is our way and truth and life; our path to forgiveness and salvation.

    Water in baptism symbolizes God’s gift to us.  It welcomes us into a community of others who are also saved by that same faith, knowledge and understanding.  In that community, it doesn’t matter if we’re from Ethiopia or Jerusalem.  We are all included on the basis of faith alone.

    But baptism and water also symbolize our commitment to God – a commitment to live like Philip; being open to the Spirit; to be prepared to go where the Spirit leads us; even if it wasn’t what we were planning to do or where we were planning to go.  It is a commitment to walk alongside others; not to make assumptions about them, but asking questions of them and getting to know them for who they are.  It is building a relationship first and sharing what we believe as we are invited to do so.

    In this sense, water is a reminder of God’s gift and our responsibility.  Which really symbolizes our whole Christian faith.  God’s love and grace are freely given – gifts to us in abundance which we do not deserve.  And yet it is our responsibility not to keep them for ourselves but to share them with others.  Philip gives us a great example for how that can be done.  May it be a way that guides our words and actions on our journeys of faith – as individuals and as a church.