Phillip and Google Earth

Acts 8

Christian faith ought to change the way we see the world. Where without faith, we divide people into groups; strangers or friends, people of my political party or those who are wrong, citizens of my nation or those who should go home. In Jesus' teachings, particularly in parables such as the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and the Final Judgement (Matthew 25:31-46), we find our prejudices erased by the command that we simply be compassionate. Persons that are in need are simply our brothers and sisters. No further division is needed. The photographs from space that are so ubiquitous now teach a similar world view. They lack the political boundaries we think so important. They fail to support the simplest of our prejudices, failing to discern the differences between the races, religions, and the economic classes of the people who live upon this small, blue, marble in space. It is a heavenly viewpoint.

The story of Phillip really begins in Acts chapter six when he is given the job of administering the soup kitchen in Jerusalem. Then in the next chapter, his partner in this effort, Stephen, is arrested and executed. Those who believe in Jesus in Jerusalem are being persecuted. Phillip flees the city. He goes a few day's walk to the north and is successful in sharing the love of Jesus with the people in Samaria. If you have read much of the New Testament, this should be surprising. By going to the Samaritans, Phillip is crossing the border. His people hated those people. But Phillip sees the world with a heavenly viewpoint. He simply shows compassion. He finds many people in need and is soon busy doing his soup kitchen work. Christianity becomes established in Samaria. People believe because Phillip is authentic. They are as fascinated by this Jew who loves them as we are by the photos we see from space.

Then, there is a minor problem. Phillip is only a deacon. He isn’t an apostle or one of the twelve ordained by Jesus. He can’t baptize the new converts that he has made in Samaria. So, Peter and John must come out from Jerusalem and do the “reverend only” stuff. I suspect that they came with half a mind to shut this unauthorized soup kitchen down. What they see is a little bit of heaven on earth. People are coming to faith, even though they live beyond the border and are, in the apostles’ minds, of an impure race. The grace of God challenges the prejudices of Peter and John. 

In two thousand years, the church has not progressed very far. We are still hesitant to cross the border into our modern-day Samaria. When someone crosses the border and comes to us, we consider them a stranger not worth our compassion. We separate the ordained from those who wait on tables. We find a beauty in the leaded borders of our stained-glass windows that irrelevant to those use to the borderless world of google earth. 

52 years and our perspective is only now beginning to change
Easter 5