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Sermon Sunday April 28, 2024 The Fifth Sunday of
Easter.
Lessons Acts 8:26-40
Psalm 22:25-31
1 John 4:7-`2
John 15:1-8
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
(Some of you may have heard a version of this story before.)
I ran outside because I heard a kitten crying in front of our
house in Barinas, Venezuela. There was a big yellow dog
right in front of our house very early in the morning, while
the neighborhood kids were lined up on the curb like so
many birds on a wire. I heard the kitten cry again, and lo and
behold, the sound was coming out of the mouth of the big
yellow dog! I took the broom and made the dog drop the
kitten on the ground. I picked up the kitten and looked at the
young folks seated in front of our house. I had a feeling that
they knew what was going on. So, I asked them whose kitten
this was? They all looked at each other, then they looked at
me, and finally they all shrugged their shoulders as if to say,
they had no idea what I was talking about! Then, why were

all five of them seated on the curb in front of my house at
7:00 am? I would never get the answer from them because
the rain started to pour down right at that moment. I ran into
the house with the kitten in my hand.
My fellow missioner and housemate and I had been talking
about getting a cat, since we had a small mouse problem, as
we lived basically in a very small town, very rural, very near
the openness of the plains in Venezuela. I never expected to
find a small kitten meowing out of the mouth of a huge
yellow dog! I encountered what we had been asking for in a
most unusual place!
Today’s lesson from the Acts of the Apostles is really like
me finding the kitten that became the cat Chispas or Sparky.
It was something that my housemate and I needed, but
found, in the most unexpected place—the mouth of a dog!
The comparison that brings to mind is that one of the themes
of today’s lesson from Acts is God showing up in
unexpected places—kitten in unexpected place, God in
unexpected place.
Philip, one of the seven appointed by the apostles to take
care of the needs of the “Hellenistic” Jews, those who
combined their Jewish beliefs with elements of Hellenistic

or Roman culture, and were believers in Jesus, became
known as one of the first deacons. The Hellenistic Jews, it
seems, were being short-changed in the distribution of goods
among the early Christians in Jerusalem as we saw a couple
of weeks ago where everyone shared everything.
Right before this passage in Acts a persecution of these early
Christians had begun, so all but the apostles had scattered to
Judea, and then Samaria, and in a sense, as we are about to
see, to the ends of the earth.
So, Philip is moved by the Holy Spirit to go down to
Gaza…and there he meets a eunuch from Ethiopia. This
Ethiopian eunuch seems to have a lot of power and wealth,
but he is also what is known as a God-fearer. That is, he is a
Gentile who follows the teachings and practices of the
Jewish faith, without having been circumcised (obviously).
In the encounter Philip is able to explain to the eunuch the
meaning of the passage from Isaiah that the eunuch is
reading, and therefore explain about Jesus to him.
The eunuch is so moved by the Holy Spirit that he wishes to
be baptized, because he now doesn’t have to be circumcised
before he can be a follower of Jesus.

This section of Scripture really illustrates for us that God
can be found in the most unexpected places. Who would
have thought that God could be found working in a rich,
Ethiopian eunuch? That was a pretty strange place for God
to show up, wasn’t it? But God pounced on the opportunity
to open the eyes, hearts, and minds of Jesus’ Jewish
followers to God’s presence in a place or in someone that
was not expected.
The rabbitroom.com talks to us about finding God where we
least expect God in this way. “Can anything good come out
of Nazareth?” Nathanael grumps, and then to his surprise
and delight, he encounters Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, and
his life will never be the same. “There’s got to be more than
flesh and bone,” Tom Waits growls. “There are angels in the
architecture” sings Paul Simon. In movies like The
Shawshank Redemption, Magnolia, and Life Is Beautiful
hope blooms like an Easter lily amidst the sewage of the
worst of our human brokenness and depravity. I find the
most tender expression of sacrificial love expressed in the
bleak post-apocalyptic landscape of Cormac McCarthy’s
The Road. I discover the strength to carry my own burden as
I get lost in the fantastical journey of Tolkien’s Frodo and

Sam. I can see glimpses of Christ even in the world of Harry
Potter.
I think part of the reason why we find God in these
unexpected places is because God’s story of redemption is
the best story of all, and all other story-tellers are left with
no choice but to borrow from The Great Story. One of
Frederick Buechner’s most memorable novels follows the
character of Leo Bebb, a bit of a religious huckster who in
spite of (or maybe because of) his idiosyncratic and often
misguided adventures, God shows up. Bebb – founder of the
church Holy Love, Inc. – is more or less a stump preacher
just barely one step ahead of the law and being caught in the
tangles of his own deceits. In all of his shortcomings,
however, it is clear that something holy is at work here.
Buechner talks often in his work of the hidden-ness of God,
and The Book of Bebb was one of the first stories that taught
me to watch not only the foreground where the characters
are playing their parts, but also the background where God is
directing the action. If the devil is in the details, then God is
in the subtext. This gives me hope.”
We may ask, where do we find God in the most unexpected
places? We may find God in a bit of barren rock or a small

scorpion here in the desert. We may find God in the joy that
a three-year-old has in life. We may find God in cleaning the
bathroom. We may find God in listening to our favorite
song. We may find God in a friend who doesn’t necessarily
believe in God. We may find God in someone who is in
prison. We may find God in someone who lives on the
streets. We may find God in the kitten found in the mouth of
a big yellow dog.
The point is that we have to be on the lookout for God. We
have to keep our eyes peeled. A good spiritual director will
often ask where God has been or is in something that is
happening in our lives. In other words, we need to stop for a
minute and see how God works in us, in our neighbors, in
our cat or dog, or in all of the places that we don’t expect
God to work or to be.
So, we challenge ourselves to be on high alert this week. We
challenge ourselves to not just think, but to know where
God is acting in those unexpected places in our lives. We
challenge ourselves to see, not just with our eyes, but with
our hearts and our minds to find God there. Where will you
find God where God is least expected this week? Amen.