“Then the angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is a wilderness road). So he got up and went” (Acts 8:26-27). The angelic summons to “go” and Philip’s immediate response imitates the calling of the first disciples. “As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea — for they were fisherman. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Mark 1:16-18).
Reaching back to the beginnings of the biblical narrative, we may remember as well the calling of Abram. “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.’ . . . So Abram went, as the Lord had told him” (Gen. 12:1, 4). Again and again, God calls people to move, migrate, go, and follow. The divine presence is a hovering cloud, a whirling fire, a tent in motion. Where are we to go?
Perhaps we all start like the Ethiopian eunuch who had come to Jerusalem to worship. He sits in his chariot and reads from the prophet Isaiah, but without understanding. Philip is sent to him, sits with him, reads with him, and proclaims to him “the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35). Expounding the good news, Philip does not merely link prophesy to fulfillment, but issues a proclamation of and an invitation into a whole new life, which is why the story moves immediately to baptism, a sacramental entrance into the death and resurrection of Christ.
We are drawn to a new life and a new homeland in the Lord Jesus. “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Making the first move, God loves us, lives in us, abides in us, is perfected in us. As God’s abiding love grows to perfection within us, fear is cast out (1 John 4:18). We are, therefore, going toward fearless love, that is, growing into the life of Christ. This new life has a beginning in baptism, from which we grow increasingly to full maturity.
Out of the waters of baptism, a vine grows. “I am the true vine,” Jesus says, “and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2). Jesus is the whole vine, of which the branches are a part. “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Indeed, apart from the Word who is life itself, we cannot even be. “Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned” (John 15:6). To be, we must be in the vine. To do all such good works as we have been called to walk in, we must consume the nutrients shared by the whole vine.
Go to the Word in baptism. Then, bear fruit in this way. Sharing the life of Christ, allow yourself to become love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22).
Look It Up: Acts 8:31
Think About It: You are guided to Christ, you live in Christ, and you bear the fruit of his fearless love.