“Get up and go.”
If you were to ask me to quote some of the most important phrases in the Bible…these words would definitely be in my top five.
Some version of “arise and go,” “get up and go,” or just “go” is spoken by God in just about every book of the Bible. They are not always easy words to hear.
- Abraham was 99 years old and just wanted to retire, when God “no, I am going to make you the Father of the Nations. Get up and go to the land I’m promising you.” And so Abraham went. When he and his people left, they didn’t even know their destination.
- Moses who was running for his life, was told to return to Egypt, confront the Pharaoh, and lead God’s people out of slavery.
- Through the prophet Deborah, God tells Barak to go and defend God’s people, even though they were vastly outnumbered.
- Samuel was told to go and anoint David as King, while the current King, Saul, was still on the throne…and Saul wasn’t going to be happy.
- Isaiah, Jeremiah, Mary and Joseph, the disciples, Paul…they all heard the words from God: “Get up and go” in the midst of difficult circumstances.
So, we should not be surprised when we get to the Book of Acts, chapter 8, that our story begins with another “get up and go” moment. The “Get up and go” God is always giving out new assignments, always sending people from place to place to do the work that needs to be done.
The “Get up and go” God doesn’t allow you to stay in any one place for too long. There is movement involved in this relationship; often more movement than we would choose for ourselves.
In our story from the book of Acts, the disciple Philip had been in Samaria. As a reminder, Samaria was unfriendly territory. Philip would not have been welcomed.
But God told Philip “get up and go there,” and so Philip got up and went. And he did miraculous things in Samaria. He drove out impure spirits and he healed the sick and the lame. Many came to faith because of Philip’s preaching. Among the disciples, Philip was good! He was on the varsity team. He was a starting pitcher.
Our story picks up with God sending an angel to Philip with a new assignment: “Go south on the desert road.” The angel doesn’t tell him why…he doesn’t tell him what for…he just says “get up and go. And so, what does Philip do?
Well, he does what he’s always done. He goes of course. He is obedient. He doesn’t doubt, doesn’t ask questions, doesn’t wonder…he just goes.
And on the way Philip encounters someone…it’s someone important, someone rich, someone powerful. The story tells us that it is an Ethiopian eunuch. We never actually learn his name.
The Ethiopian was also traveling the desert road. But he was riding in a chariot. Understand that riding in a chariot was roughly the first century equivalent of riding in a long, stretch limo today. This Ethiopian was a person with financial resources. He was, in fact, a member of the royal court of the Queen of Ethiopia. He was the keeper of the royal treasury.
When Philip spotted him in the chariot, this Ethiopian was on his way home from visiting and worshipping at the temple in Jerusalem. And he was sitting there reading from the scriptures, from the book of Isaiah.
The Holy Spirit spoke. She told Philip to “go,” and approach the chariot. Philip does, and the Ethiopian looks down at him. Philip asks him, “Hey, I’m just curious…do you understand what you are reading?” And the Ethiopian asks, (and I love this question!) “how can I understand, unless someone explains it to me?” How can I understand, unless someone explains it to me?
So, the Ethiopian invited Philip into the chariot, where Philip helps him understand this section of Isaiah. It is a section that prophesies…that predicts…the Messiah…Jesus. So, Philip explains who Jesus is and the story of his death and resurrection.
The story apparently moved the heart of the Ethiopian. Because as the chariot approached a small lake, or a stream, the Ethiopian asked “so Philip, what stands in the way of my being baptized, right here, right now?” And Philip didn’t even have time to reply. Because the Ethiopian ordered his driver to stop the chariot. And he and Philip both jumped out, and the Ethiopian waded into the water, and Philip baptized him right there, by the side of the road. Boom. Done.
And the scripture says that when the Ethiopian came up out of the water, the Spirit took Philip away. He vanished. And the Ethiopian got up and went. The scriptures say that he went on his way, rejoicing. Presumably back to Ethiopia, where I’m certain he told this story. Probably many, many times. Not coincidentally, Ethiopia was the first nation to adopt Christianity as its religion. And still today, Christians are the largest religious group in Ethiopia. You connect the dots.
“Get up and go.” These are powerful, powerful words.
I have an acquaintance, who was also an ELCA pastor, named Ron. When I was a pastor in Maple Grove, he was a pastor in Rogers. Our congregations were probably just 10 miles apart, so over the years, we got to know each other a bit.
One day I heard through the grapevine that he was leaving his congregation for something new. So I called him up to see what was going on. He said “For a while, I’ve had this nagging sense that I should go into the mission field.” What? Really? “Yes. I believe that God wants me to serve somewhere in central or south America.” So, he had resigned his call, and was off to six months of intense, specialized training. When he completed this, he anticipated being sent to Peru, or Colombia, or maybe Honduras. His wife would quit her job, the kids would leave school and enroll down there…and they’d sell most of what they owned.
When Pastor Ron finished his specialized training, he was ready to go. He got his assignment, and he was sent. He was sent to Madelia, Minnesota, just 117 miles down the road. And there, he was called to begin a new Latino mission church for the migrant farm workers and for those who worked at the poultry processing plant there.
God said “get up and go.” And so Pastor Ron, and his family, did. I ran into Ron a few years later and we laughed about how God works. He said “I had pretty romantic notions about being a missionary.” And then Pastor Ron said something that has stuck with me. He said: “I guess it’s not about the distance. It’s about trusting the one who sends you.”
“Get up and go” can be hard words to hear. Because they almost always involve change. And change is hard; change involves loss. But these words also invite trust. If we believe in a cause; if we believe we are being sent not just somewhere, but for something, for a purpose, for a mission…and if we trust God…we really trust that God is the true vine and we are the branches…that we are connected…then it is easier to follow where God leads.
Sometimes it might be the desert road. Some days it may be Peru, or Colombia. Other days it might just be Madelia.
And to be honest, for most of us, I believe it might just be across the room.
Remember that all the Ethiopian wanted was for someone to ride with him, and to explain the things that he was reading in the scriptures. The Ethiopian just wanted someone to talk with him about life, and faith. And when Philip mentioned this Messiah, Jesus, who had died and been resurrected, his words were like a cold drink of water on a hot, hot day.
“What stops me from being baptized right now?” The Ethiopian asked. Nothing. Nothing at all.
So, here’s your homework for this week. I’d like you to take a few minutes and think. I’d like you to wonder about where God might be sending you. Because here’s the thing: I believe that God is sending all of us…each and every one of us. From the youngest to the oldest.
It may be someplace like Peru or Colombia. (That could be pretty cool!)
Or it might be right here…in Owatonna.
- It might be at work, to that person in the cubicle about 50 feet away, who lost their parent this winter…or who maybe went through a divorce. And they just need to process. Maybe they just need someone to ask them how they’re doing.
- Or maybe it’s encouraging that kid who is struggling this spring on the ball diamond.
- Or perhaps it’s that neighbor who maybe isn’t bouncing back after a year of pandemic isolation. Maybe they just need someone to ask them how they are?
Maybe it’s just across the room. Maybe God’s mission for you is to walk across the room and to talk to someone…to check in with them…maybe it’s to invite them here, to be a part of a community that centers itself around the love of Jesus.
Get up and go. That was God’s Word to Philip. It is God’s Word to you.
It is God’s Word because it is what God did. The “Get up and Go” God took on human form and came to be with us…right alongside us…to live, and teach, and laugh, and cry and ultimately to die and be resurrected, and to bring salvation and love to us. To bring love to you.
And because of that, we get up…and we go. Because we want to make sure that others know and understand and experience what God has done for them.
And when they do…then it will be their turn. And they too will get up and go…and share the love of Jesus…maybe in Peru…maybe in Honduras…maybe Madeila, or maybe…maybe just across the room.
Get up and go.
Thanks be to God!