Alvey: Kingdom of Heaven is in our midst

Published 10:56 pm Tuesday, October 10, 2017

By Jack Alvey | Alvey is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

Today, the Episcopal Church recognizes one of my favorite Saints. St. Philip was one of the seven that the apostles chose to minister to needs of the widows and the poor in Jerusalem. Philip and the six others are considered the first deacons of the church.

The primary function of a deacon, then and now, is to respond to the physical needs of the poor and sick. A deacon is also responsible for bringing the physical needs of the community and the world to the attention of the church. On occasion, a deacon is also given the authority to preach and to teach. Following the martyrdom of St. Stephen, St. Philip is sent to Samaria to preach the gospel to a large group. On the way, he encounters an Ethiopian eunuch who is reading from the scriptures.

We know that the Ethiopian is not someone we would normally associate with the Judeo-Christian culture. The eunuch is in every sense an outsider. However, Philip must have remembered the parable of the Good Samaritan and stops to help the Ethiopian.

In particular, Philip helps the Ethiopian understand a passage of Isaiah that alludes to the Messiah. During the course of their conversation, the Ethiopian is converted and baptized. This encounter should remind us that no one is excluded from the love of God in Christ.

This encounter also reminds me to pay attention to what the journey brings.

Our lives as Christians are often marked by projects or programs that are meant to spread the gospel to a large group. However, I have learned that much of the work God is giving me to do happens along the way.

A couple of years ago, the Vestry at St. Paul’s made a commitment to seek and serve the poor and homeless in the community. Various leaders went to meetings and made inquiries into how St. Paul’s can be a part of a ministry to serve the needs of the poor and homeless.

We encountered a family who was on the verge of homelessness. I, along with others, discovered quickly that this is not easy work. The issues related to homelessness are complicated.

Solutions are not easy. I have learned that the kingdom of heaven is not simply something way out there in the future but something that is available here and now.

The kingdom of heaven is being worked out in our midst even before we reach the end goal. The kingdom of heaven is revealed when we are willing to take the risk of saying “yes” even when we have no idea what we will discover along the way.

Today, I am thankful for people like Philip who have the grace to stop and see how the kingdom of heaven is breaking into this world now. The end goal can wait for the kingdom of heaven is here in our midst.