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What's in a name?


What might it mean for a group of people, living and moving in the early twenty-first century, to affiliate themselves with a church named after the Apostle Philip?  Is it just quaint circumstance? Or could it be a precise and personal way to respond to what it means to be someone who yearns for life beyond the mechanical or the trendy?  Could this name, identifying a church and its community, be an avenue to address and live life on God’s terms?

In fact, Philip the Apostle (not to be confused with Philip the Evangelist/Deacon of Acts 6) may reflect to us a model for our own contemporary and spiritual lives.  Consider the following items.

As with most of the original followers of Jesus, we don’t know a great deal about the details of their lives or their ministries.  What matters in terms of the gospel’s sense of history is that in their own generations and circumstances these men and women carried and implanted the hope and strength of the God-life as Jesus manifested it.  This is to say that their gospel work was not about them. It was about what God did and continues to do in and through the Incarnate One, Jesus Christ. We call the trajectory and impact of this transforming witness the “Apostolic tradition”: that is, an “apostle” was an eyewitness to Jesus’ life and ministry; and this essential, compelling witness has been conveyed to succeeding generations.

In terms of Philip’s place in this apostolic trajectory, he is mentioned three times in the Gospel of John [1:43-51; 6:5-7; 12:21], and from these quick snapshots we can gain insight into the person who followed Jesus and what it might mean to be a church named in his honor.  Perhaps the most notable mentioning (and telling for those who attend St. Philip’s in our own time) comes at the beginning of the Fourth Gospel (1:43-51).

The unfolding scene is when Philip informs his fellow townsman, Nathanael, that Jesus of Nazareth is the one they have been anticipating all along.  Nathanael, skeptical if not cynical about such clarity, dismisses Philip’s reference, to which Philip offers words that stand as our community’s ongoing challenge and calling.  Philip simply says to Nathanael’s resistance: “Come and See.”  

“Come and See” are all we need to know about Philip’s part in the Apostolic Ministry.  No argument, no rules, no pre-requisites, no testing: Just a personal invitation to “come” and then to “see” in our own lives the difference the God-in-Christ-life makes. 

COME: It costs nothing to invite another, save for the time and caring effort to accompany that person to join you in discovering what you already know matters.  

SEE: Our invitation is predicated on the fact that there is something to “see” that will be the proof of the pudding.  And what there is to see – in our very midst as individuals and as a church community – is the creative and transforming life as God knows it and as Christ demonstrates it.  

So, our church is called ST. PHILIP’S CHURCH.  We are first challenged by this name personally to be willing and able to invite others who yearn for the reliable life that only God can provide.  “Come”. We are also called by Philip’s example to make sure that those we invite to “come” will also “see” in us the God-life at work and be compelled by our examples to share with us in this life and ministry.  

What’s in a Name?  COME AND SEE.

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