“A Welcoming Church” Pastor Stephen Sanders 08-15-21 Part I of the sermon series “Where We Go From Here”

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Where do we go from here? That’s the question I want us to reflect on for the next few weeks.

I know that COVID has reared its ugly head again. Some people are worried about what that means for us. We’re going to make our way through this time. But it’s time for the people of Oak Hill to pray and dream about the future into which God is leading us – where we go from here.

Beginning in mid-September, my friend and mentor Ann Jenkins will lead us in a visioning process.  We will pray and listen for where God is leading us. As we prepare for that, I want to spend the next three weeks sharing where I sense we go from here.

I begin by inviting us to reflect on the story of a man from Ethiopia (Acts 8:26-39).  This story has been on my heart for the last year and deeply shapes my understanding of where God is leading us.

On the surface the Ethiopian man appears to have it all. He’s rich, well-educated, powerful. We might look at him and think, “Wow, he’s got a good life.”

Underneath, he hides a hidden wound.  He is a eunuch. (If you don’t know what that means, you can Google it.) In the ancient world, eunuchs might guard a king’s harem. This eunuch oversaw the royal treasury. It could also cut someone off from others. According to Deuteronomy 23:1, eunuchs “shall not be admitted to the assembly of the Lord.” He was cut off from God’s people.

Why is his story important? Because God wanted to include this man into the community of God’s people called “the Church.” Through the apostle Philip, God reached out. Philip told the man about Jesus, baptized him, and welcomed him into the community called the church.

As you prepare for worship this week, listen to this story for your personal devotional. Then reflect on these questions:

  • Who do you know in our community like eunuch?  People who seem to have it all, yet hide secret hurts?
  • How does Jesus call his people to reach out and respond to people who hurt?
  • What will Oak Hill look like as we live into Jesus’ call to welcome and care for everyone God sends our way?

As we listen to this story and reflect on these questions, we will gain clarity on where we go from here.

Pastor Stephen