A sermon by Wendy Morecroft

29 April 2018

Based on Acts 8:26-40, Ps 22:26-32, 1 John 4:7-21, John 15:1-8



In the name of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.


Our Art Gallery of South Australia is currently holding an exhibition called Colours of the Impressionists which is a collection of masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsey in Paris. Rev’d Canon Jenny Wilson is organising a private tour for us all with Art Gallery Guide David Roach, so stay tuned about that.


I had never heard of the Musée d’Orsey until a couple of years ago when I watched a wonderful episode of Dr Who in which he visits Vincent Van Gogh to help him fight his demons. Once the Doctor has slayed his demons, which of course he can see, he then transports Vincent in his Tardis into the 21st Century to see many of his masterpieces displayed in this most famous of art galleries.


Have you ever marvelled at how much we can know about an artist by their masterpieces?


I propose that each of our three readings for today, is a masterpiece that tells us about our Loving God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So please, allow me to be your guide.


The first masterpiece is from Acts. Can you imagine the scene? On the one hand, this reading seems so REMARKABLE, and on the other hand, so ordinary. It is remarkable, because Philip took off on an apparent whim, 40 miles into the wilderness because an angel told him to, even though no explanation was given, or at least not that we are told. When he arrived, the Spirit, told him to go over to an Ethiopian eunuch who was sitting in his chariot. Not surprisingly, Philip RAN over, probably eager to know the reason the angel had sent him to this remote location. Philip realises his mission, which was to help the eunuch understand a passage of scripture and Philip subsequently baptises him. Legend has it that the eunuch went on to become the founder of the Christian Church in Ethiopia, so Philip’s obedience may have had immense consequences.”[1]


The scene of Philip and the eunuch is also ORDINARY because many of us experience inspiration from the Holy Spirit at various times in our lives and the more we abide in God’s love, the more likely we are to recognise the stirrings and promptings of the Spirit.


It maybe, that for no apparent reason, we suddenly feel that we should contact a particular person, and then we hear them tell us how much they needed to talk to us. It maybe, that we are led to a totally unexpected place, and have a significant, chance encounter. Or was it just by chance?


I had such an encounter just two weeks ago. I was contacted out of the blue by a friend who I hadn’t seen for 30 years. We actually met at the Art Gallery for lunch that Sunday because she wanted to see the Colours of the Impressionists exhibition. We didn’t get to see it because she really needed to talk and revealed something to me that was especially troubling to her. (She didn’t want to talk about faith, but I did manage to tell her why I think Christianity makes so much more sense than other faiths.) A number of logistics fell into place and she ended up coming to Evensong. She and I were both overwhelmed by the remarkable coincidence of Dean Frank’s topic for preaching that night. I’m sure that God had inspired him just for her.


The second masterpiece is that of 1 John 4:7-21. This reading surpasses the better-known reading about love in 1 Corinthians 13 and it is so beautiful that I’m just going to let verses 11-17 speak again for themselves. May we see, hear or feel these words filling our hearts or soaring with us as on the wings on an eagle:


Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we    love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world. 15 God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and           they abide in God. 16 So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgement, because as he is, so are we in this world.


The third masterpiece is a portrait of Jesus as the true vine. Many of us will have experienced growing grapes. One of my earliest memories is of my father planting an old vine stump in our otherwise sterile back yard. It provided thick shade every summer as it climbed across a lattice and we gathered more grapes than we could eat. Unfortunately, I never asked my father the secret to his success. The vine that Andrew and I have planted yields next to nothing but in my sermon preparation I have had an AHA moment. I have LEARNED THE SECRET. Apparently, if you prune the branches close to the trunk they will bear more fruit. And this is how it is with us.


When we come to church, when we read scriptures, and when we pray, we draw close to the trunk of Jesus the vine. When we receive the Eucharist, we receive the real presence of Christ and we abide in Christ. It was in Philip’s abiding relationship with Christ that he recognised the Spirit at work in his life and was able to help the Ethiopian eunuch.


There is a stirring of the Spirit at work in the Anglican Communion right now. It’s a prayer initiative called Thy Kingdom Come and will run from Ascension Day on 10 May to the Day of Pentecost on 20 May. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby has said that he cannot remember anything in his life, that he has been involved in, where he has sensed so clearly the work of the Spirit.


There is information on a website called Thy Kingdom Come. There is some information in our service booklet. Basically, we are being asked to identify five or more people or causes or countries or organisations or churches and to pray intentionally for them for 10 days. This is a very practical way in which we can join with the whole Anglican Communion in drawing nearer to the trunk of Jesus’ vine, abiding in him and him in us.


May his abiding in us bear much fruit for his glory. May we like Philip, notice the stirrings and promptings of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And may we all pray, Thy Kingdom Come. Amen










[1] Rosalind Brown, Fresh from the Word (London: Canterbury Press Norwich, 2016), 183.