The Feast of Saints Philip & James – A Trinitarian Reflection

John 14:6-14

In tonight’s Gospel we have Jesus identifying himself with God as The Great “I AM”. When Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” our ears should burn as we remember YAHWEH, the God of Israel, telling Moses who He is. Out of the burning bush God says to Moses, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus tells the disbelieving Sadducees that because the great I Am is the same God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. This is the same spiritual life force that is God, and this life force is One.

As Christians we believe that God the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. This is one of the lines from the Nicene Creed we recite on Sundays. So, when Philip asks Jesus to show him God the Father, Jesus replies He/Jesus is One with the Father. If you know the Father you know me. Since this is a deep theological truth, and Philip doesn’t necessary get it, Jesus offers, “at least believe on the evidence of the works [of God] themselves.” And what are these works? Well, going back to the Moses story, God is the great gathering force who desires to once again gather his people Israel so that He may be their God, and they His people. That’s the work; and this is the same work, the work of God being done by Jesus. Jesus is gathering his people once again, and those who recognize his divinity recognize the way, the truth, and the life. His work is to gather up those who are on their way to him as well as invite those who do not know him into his Being, or into his “I Am-ness.”

When we remember all the above, Jesus’ words, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” makes more sense. If we have been gathered up by God who is the way, truth, and life then our actions, and our works have the potential to be one with the actions and workings of the living God! This is what is meant by the words in The Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” In other words, when we align ourselves with the will of God, we are asking for what God has already deemed a triumphant, ‘Yes.’ God is glorified in saying ‘Yes’ to His will – always. So what does all of this “look like” on the ground? That’s where the saints come in – two of which we are celebrating today. The saints of the church show us through their lives what the workings of God look like, and the workings of God are as diverse as the saints themselves. St. Philip is certainly different than St. James, or St. Augustine, St. Aquinas, or Theresa. Throughout space and time, it is the saints who inspire us to focus our lives on the will of God the Father, and in doing so find Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Tonight, as we all seek out health, healing, and wholeness may your prayers align with the Spirit of Christ who is constantly praying within you to the Father in heaven, and in doing so revealing God’s will in your life.

The Good Shepherd

Poetic Responses to The Good Shepherd imagery found in John 10:11-18.

The Hired Hand
By Brandon Duke

I’m afraid I’m the hired hand. I don’t comprehend the lambs fully.
They are fully known by God alone.
What’s it like to be fully known?
For a moment I imagine
the Good Shepherd circling his gaze towards me knowing I’ve been
hired out by one (or another) yet not defined by it.
Instead, and perhaps for the first time in my life
I am regarded by Being itself.
I straighten my posture, dust off my shirt, becoming as giddy as a little girl,
“He sees me. He really sees me.”
Not only does he take notice, he knows my name
and for a moment I imagine him
loving me more than sheep – precious though they are.

In his gaze I am not hired. I am healed.
On his watch I am not lonely. I am fulfilled.
In time I will come to know him in his fullness.

The Enigma
By Anne Stevenson

Falling to sleep last night in a deep crevasse
between one rough dream and another, I seemed,
still awake, to be stranded on a stony path,
and there the familiar enigma presented itself
in the shape of a little trembling lamb.
It was lying like a pearl in the trough between
one Welsh slab and another, and it was crying.

I looked around, as anyone would, for its mother.
Nothing was there. What did I know about lambs?
Should I pick it up? Carry it . . . where?
What would I do if it were dying? The hand
of my conscience fought with the claw of my fear.
It wasn’t so easy to imitate the Good Shepherd
in that faded, framed Sunday School picture
filtering now through the dream’s daguerreotype.

With the wind fallen and the moon swollen to the full,
small, white doubles of the creature at my feet
flared like candles in the creases of the night
until it looked to be alive with newborn lambs.
Where could they all have come from?
A second look, and the bleating lambs were birds—
kittiwakes nesting, clustered on a cliff face,
fixing on me their dark accusing eyes.

There was a kind of imperative not to touch them,
yet to be of them, whatever they were—
now lambs, now birds, now floating points of light—
fireflies signaling how many lost New England summers?
One form, now another; one configuration, now another.
Like fossils locked deep in the folds of my brain,
outliving a time by telling its story. Like stars.

Psalm 23 King James Version (KJV)
Traditionally attributed to King David

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Collect of the Day

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.