May 21, 2009

St. Philip's ascends.

The Ascension of Jesus, Salvador Dali

Today is Ascension Day, the commemoration of the day Jesus returned to Heaven. His parting words to his disciples (including St. Philip the Evangelist) from Matthew 28:16-20:
(16) Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. (17) And when they saw him, they worshiped him: but some doubted. (18) And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. (19) Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (20) Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."

So today is also "The Great Commission Day." Rather than mourn Jesus' leaving us, we celebrate his sending us out into the world to do his work, strengthened and accompanied by the Holy Spirit. And today is also a day that St. Philip the Joy Giver Episcopal Church ponders their future, now that they have been closed as a mission of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.

But who was Philip the Joy Giver?

Philip, Deacon and Evangelist

Acts 8:26-40 --

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went.

Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah.

Then the Spirit said to Philip, "Go over to this chariot and join it." So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" He replied, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:

"Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
so he does not open his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken way from the earth."

The eunuch asked Philip, "About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?" Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus.

As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?" He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip an the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.

When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Immediately after witnessing to and baptizing the Ethiopian (although the baptism was conducted by the Holy Spirit, Philip simply poured the water), Philip was transported away by the Holy Spirit, and and went on his way loudly singing praises to God.

That is what I'd suggest the band of believers who make up the community known as St. Philip the Joy Giver do. Allow the Holy Spirit to transport them to a new place, where they can sing joyful songs of praise to our God, our resurrected Lord, and the Holy Spirit, Three In One, in thanksgiving for what he has done in their lives.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Thanks be to God!

Holy God, no one is excluded from your love, and your truth transforms the minds of all who seek you: As your servant Philip was led to embrace the fullness of your salvation and to bring the stranger to Baptism, so give us all the grace to be heralds of the Gospel, proclaiming your love in Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.