The collect and readings for the Feast of St. Philip may be found here. The following sermon is based on John 14:6-14.
Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit someone in his home. It was the first time I had been there so he gave me a tour. The hallways were filled with icons, beautiful and holy images. They covered the walls. “Who are they,” I asked. He lit up. “Really? You want to know?” “Yes, tell me,” I said. He pointed to each one and told me stories about his parents, grandparents, siblings, and the events of his life. His words and their images came together to tell a common story of the events and people that shaped and formed his life, people he loves and who love him.
The icons, images, that we carry in our purses and wallets, that hang on the walls of our homes, and sit on our desks are as sacred and important as the icon we will bless tonight, The Protection of Philip. Like our personal icons, the icons of the Church portray those who have gone before us, our spiritual ancestors, those who have shaped and formed our lives, passing on to us the faith that was given them. They guide and point us to Christ. They are the ones who love and pray for us. They are the ones we love and for whom we pray.
St. Philip is one of those. He is our great, great, great, great … great grandfather in the faith. We are his namesake and the beneficiaries of his life, faith, and prayers. His prayers fill this church. We join our voices with his and those of the angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven to proclaim the glory of God’s name.
The words of scripture we heard in tonight’s gospel, we see in the icon of Jesus and Philip standing together. Those words and those images come together to tell a common story. It is the story of humanity’s deepest longing and the one in and by whom that longing is satisfied. Our longing is manifested by our restlessness, by our sense of emptiness, by our search for meaning and significance.
Tonight scripture and icon, words and images, ears and eyes take us deep into our hearts where Philip’s words echo, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Philip expresses the universal desire of humanity: to stand in the presence of holiness, to behold God, and to be satisfied.
Philip reminds us, however, that true satisfaction is not found in our accomplishments, acquisitions, or what we do for ourselves. Satisfaction is not about filling a void. It is about stepping into a new life, God’s life. It is only in seeing the Father, that we are healed and made whole, our life is made complete, and we are perfected in the image and likeness of God. In that moment of seeing we are satisfied and we know ourselves to be enough. Nothing is lacking.
That moment of seeing, our satisfaction and “enoughness,” is right now. It is happening in this moment and every moment. It happens for us just as it happened for Philip. Jesus tells him, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father…. I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” Jesus is the icon, the portrait, the revealer, of the Father. To see the Father in and through Jesus is the fullness of life.
The most profound satisfaction of our lives is already standing before us in the person of Jesus Christ. His words, his image, and his presence call us into our own “enoughness” and to know ourselves to be satisfied.
The satisfaction of our lives cannot be earned. We awaken to it. We discover it. We step into it. It is the gift of God for the people of God. That’s what Philip discovered. The satisfaction he so wanted was already his because he is Christ’s. He only needed to learn to see.
The icons of our lives teach us to see. That’s what Jesus did for Philip. That’s what Philip and Jesus do for us. Philip is our constant companion on this journey of seeing. He knows the way. He has gone before us. He will not let us get lost. So “when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’” (Isaiah 30:21). Turn around and you will see St. Philip pointing you to Jesus, the image of our Father. In that moment your deepest longing is not ended; it is satisfied. Always has been, always will be.
Your new icon is beautiful. Thank you for sharing these beautiful icons with us 🙂 and also for your lovely homilies 🙂
Leela, we are really grateful for the icon and its making St. Philip a visible presence. Thank you for sharing in that with us and for your kind words about my homilies.
I never saw icons as something other than nice decorations, but your sermon opened up a whole new meaning. I love walking through my little house and viewing my icons in a different light. Although I flunked a class on writing icons, I now realize that I’m writing an icon in my own way when I recreate on canvas places that have been special in my life. I live in a gallery of icons! When I take time to meditate on them instead of just critiqueing them with an artist’s eye, I discover meanings I didn’t know were there. Thanks, Mike.
Ellen, thanks for your comment. So glad for the new awareness. Icons reveal a deeper presence and, as you say, new meanings. How amazing that humanity is created in the icon and likeness of God.