Philip, Deacon and Apostle

Posted October 11, 2016 @ 2:18am | by Tripp

Homily, Commemoration of St. Philip, Deacon and Apostle
Church Divinity School of the Pacific
October 11, 2016

The Lord be with you. 
Let us pray.
Lord, I believe. Help, Thou, my unbelief. Let these words be more than words and give us all the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.

Overflowing with ecstatic symbolism, today’s passage from Acts overwhelms us with the power of the Holy Spirit, of the Gospel prophets themselves to speak the truth of Jesus the Christ, the Suffering Servant of God past, through, within, and in spite of any social privilege. 

Our Ethiopian eunuch holds a place of great social power 
while simultaneously being relegated to the sidelines of religious life. 

Philip has to run alongside the chariot. He has no chariot of his own. 
He’s on foot; on a journey from one mission field to another. 

We are reminded that Jesus, the very icon of God, God Incarnate, 
is not an all-powerful, earth-bound ruler, 
but is, instead the Suffering Servant, 
the fulfillment of a prophesy 
that promises that the mighty will be cast down and the lowly lifted up.

Nothing of the Ethiopian’s physical condition, not their nationality, not their sexual identity, can keep them from the baptismal waters and the full promise of God’s grace. 

Philip is snatched up, whisked away by the Holy Spirit to the next town like our narrator in the Talking Heads’ classic song. I imagine he asks:

    Well, how did I get here? 
There is “Water flowing underground” you see.

And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right?...Am I wrong?
And you may tell yourself

Yeah and verily doth the pop culture prophet, David Byrne of the Talking Heads, sing for us. 
My God, what have we done? Water is everywhere. Yet, what have we done? We have mistaken privilege for the fruit of the Spirit.

How did we get here? Who is asking this question now? The voter? The candidate? Is the seminarian, the Dean, faculty, or Trustees? 

This election season has put the worst of our tradition’s prejudices on display. Our misogyny, racism, and classism, our violence and clamoring for political might, all the things that keep people from being baptized are all on display…once again. 

We are withholding baptism left and right, clinging to social privilege at every turn. We try to influence. We try to gainsay. We try and try again to sway the voters’ minds in one direction or another. The Christian right claims one candidate. The Christian left claims another. The Christian middle is no more. 

Same as it ever was…same as it ever was…

The Gospel of Christ is always political. To be incarnate is to be political. I assume that if we cannot see the political implications of the Gospel, we’re likely reading it wrongly. 

Instead, look at the relationship that Philip has to the political powers in front of him. Notice the passage that Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch are interpreting together. 

“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 away from the earth.”

Look again and again at the writing of Luke where we find Mary’s Magnificat, Jesus’ promise of Jubilee, and a list of woe’s fast on the heels of a list of blessings in the Beatitudes. Always, always Luke challenges to privilege and position. This passage is no different.

Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 

And there, right before them is water, water enough for them both to walk into, like God’s grace, it abounds and no one is denied. 

Friends of God, white supremacy, male privilege, not the absence of water, these things keep people from being baptized. 

Luke calls every social privilege (even the ones we have made sacred and call Christendom) into question. It’s a powerful challenge for us today...for those of us who enjoy great social privilege…and those who struggle under the oppressive weight of the privilege of others…

Says the Virginia-born, middle aged white guy standing behind the ambo in a seminary in Berkeley, CA in the shadow of one of the most renowned research universities on the planet.

As a nation we cannot agree on whether or not black lives matter…
…or if groping a woman uninvited is sexual assault or flattery. 
God help us, but people are being killed every day in a land where privilege is commonly mistaken for the waters of baptism.

Not for a moment can we say that Trump is a virtuous candidate. Not for a moment. 
And yet…yet many Christians still wish to claim him as the only appropriate political option. “God can use him,” some claim.

Trump and Clinton are not the same. We cannot equate them or the politics of the communities that support them. Moral complexity and privilege, fear and oppression are on the very face of this electoral cycle. 

It is absolutely possible to be privileged and oppressed simultaneously.
And it essential to recognize that the loss of privilege is not oppression. 
Indeed, according to our passage today, it may be sanctification. 

This is the good news of Jesus the Christ.
There is water underground.
It flows. 
It bubbles up along side the road.
It is deep and there is always room to enter.
It cleanses us.
It renews us. 
It cools us from the hot sun of our own politics.
It releases us from oppression and privilege alike. 
And the Spirit moves over it to bless and claim us. 

Same as it ever was.
Same as it ever was. 

Blog Home
Filed Under: random foolishness |   | Permalink
Comments powered by Disqus
XML Sitemap