Celebration of New Ministry, December 8, 2016

Sermon by The Reverend Christian Baron on the evening of the Celebration of New Ministry, December 8, 2016, Feast of St. Philip (observed)

On December 8, 2016, our Bishop, The Right Reverend Whayne Hougland, and his wife, Dana, joined St. Philip’s for a celebration. After calling our new Co-Rectors, The Reverends Christian and Jodi Baron, the congregation, the bishop, and the wider community were invited to come together for a time to formally “install” them and renew our mutual ministry as reconciling agents in the world.

We chose the readings from the Feast of our Patronal Saint, St. Philip, as the frame for which guide our meditation; Isaiah 30:18-21, Psalm 119: 33-40, 2 Corinthians 4:1-6, John 14:6-14. Below is the sermon Father Christian delivered.

“From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen..
Good evening. Glad you could make it tonight as we share this celebration of new ministry for this place… for this parish… It is my pleasure to be here with you tonight and into the future.
Bishop Hougland, we are so pleased that you could make the trip to be here with us tonight.
Due to the weather, you may not ever get home, but we’re glad that you are here and that you made it.
Before my children were this old, they were younger… At some point they were much younger. And a long time ago, they used to be a bit naughty.
Obviously, they are older now and no longer misbehave.
But we used to have this thing that we did when one of them would do something that needed to be addressed. I can remember a specific time when one of my kids, opened up a can of baby formula and dumped the entire thing out in the carpet.
Now, I don’t know if you know how expensive baby formula is, but as young parents, it was more than we enjoyed paying.
And, I don’t know if you know, but baby formula is one of the finest powders known to man. This made getting the formula out of the carpet nearly impossible…
no, it was literally impossible… But we managed to get some of the formula out of the carpet… at least, we were able to get enough out of the carpet to ruin the vacuum cleaner.
It was a bad day.
But in those kinds of situations, we had this thing that we would do that was intentional.
We would ask the offending child to come and place their hands on our cheeks so we could talk with them.
It wasn’t really a disciplinary tactic.
It wasn’t a punishment.
We weren’t trying to shame them.
But we wanted to feel their tiny soft hands on our cheeks and to look into their eyes.
And we wanted them to feel our skin with their hands and to gaze deeply into our eyes.
And it would soften us as parents… and allow them to focus without distraction.
I tell you this story because when I read the gospel for this service, I remembered these tender moments with my kids.
It was in those moments where my anger was transformed by the soft and gentle touch of a human being that bore my image…
I needed to be reminded that these mini-Barons were good and that we were in this thing for the long haul.
And, we didn’t really choose the readings for today to fit this story.
No, the readings for today were chosen because they are the readings for the Feast of St. Philip, our patron Saint.
I’m not exactly sure what the context was for this parish selecting this name.
In the green history book of this parish, it simply tells the story that a member had nominated “Philip” for the name of the parish and that it was accepted.
But, is there anybody here that knows the the actual context for this choice?
Saint Philip is an interesting character isn’t he?
Philip only significantly appears in one of the gospels, the gospel of John.
In the gospel passage today, Philip continues his search for God. He is already following Jesus everywhere… trying to live and be like his master. Trying to learn all he can about what it means to live fully into a Kingdom that he can’t conceptualize or understand. And this passage is set inside of the Last Supper.
And the author of this gospel really wants to make it clear that this is a turning point for his disciples.
Jesus says to Philip, “Philip, look into my eyes. I have been picked by God. God, for the first time in history, has flesh and bones. Has hair and a voice. Eats and sleeps. Has physical pain and can experience for the first time, a deep rolling belly laugh. God has become a human.”
Philip is definitely seeking truth.
And he has found some here.
He knew all along that there was something special about Jesus.
He felt deeply that Jesus was special…
He proved it by bringing others to meet Jesus.
In the first chapter of John, Philip says, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
Later in John, some Greeks want to meet Jesus and so Philip and Andrew arrange for it to happen.
Philip is all-in.
All in for what?
He doesn’t fully know.
But he knows that his life has been changed by following this teacher.
He values what Jesus has to offer and realizes that Jesus has plenty to share; that when it comes to Jesus, there is plenty to go around.
And the reason that Philip bought into this… that he would dedicate his whole life to the ways of Jesus… is because he chose to become a vessel to be filled.
He was open to the ways of Jesus.
He spent time with Jesus as they fished… as they walked… as they lived…
He was at the wedding of Cana where Jesus turned a wedding party into an abundant feast with more wine than the guests could possibly drink.
Jesus consults with Philip about the feeding of the 5,000.
“Philip, how are we ever going to feed all of these people?”
“Not sure Jesus, 6 months wages couldn’t even feed this many people…”
And then Jesus feeds them anyhow…
Philip is around for the good and the bad.
He is there to witness miracles and to see great things accomplished.
He is there with his friend, Jesus, at the end.
And we have the benefit of having this gospel text today to understand more fully about the incarnation of Christ.
And what a nice coincidence that this text shows up during Advent, as we wait for God. What a coincidence as we think about the Incarnation of God as we celebrate the new ministry of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Beulah.
I’d like you to turn and look at your neighbor. Look into their eyes…Look deeply… hold that look… don’t look away…
You bear the image of the divine…
your neighbor is an image bearer of the creator of the universe…
You are an ambassador of God…
of this Diocese…
of St. Philip’s…
And because of Philip…
and because the Incarnation is such a significant piece of our theological identity as Episcopalians…
I pray that we may be like Philip.
That we may be close to God with our time.
That our stories and our lives are enmeshed with Philip’s.
I pray that we may keep our eyes and ears and our hearts open so that when we encounter folks who need a faith community, we are prepared to show them the hospitality of Philip.
I pray that we can be like Philip as we pray…
as we sit with fellow image bearers…
As we look into their eyes and as they look into ours.
I pray that as we share a story… a laugh… a cup of coffee… or a beer… in a classroom, break room, or living room…
That as sacramental Christians, as Episcopalians… as Philipites, that we will point them in the direction of this table… at this thin space which is somehow… (mysteriously)… between the temporal and the transcendent… so that all of us can obtain the strength and the solace that is so essential in being a good human being.
I pray that with our money and with this beautiful building and all the things that we have been entrusted with… that we will seek to serve each other and the most vulnerable of this county and beyond. Let’s make it so.
“From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Amen.