“Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” We may never have said those exact words but I’ll bet most of us understand and know what Philip is asking. He has expressed a deep and universal desire of humanity. Sometimes we say, “You know, something is missing. I just feel restless. Nothing seems to satisfy.” In those moments we have echoed Philip’s words. It is the longing to stand in the presence of holiness, to see God, and to know ourselves as transcendent.
That Philip would say this in a face to face conversation with Jesus reveals a common misunderstanding about God. It is the myth that God is distant, far away, and removed. “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me?” It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Do you not see, not understand, who is right in front of you?” Somehow we have been convinced that the entrance into divine life and the presence of God are not to be found in this world, and that’s just wrong. It’s not true.
Our entrance into the divine life is not found apart from the material world but in a deeper experience of the material world. That’s a part of what it means for God to become human. That’s a part of what the incarnation is about. That’s what Jesus is telling Philip. It’s all right before our very eyes.
Humanity is the most compete expression of God’s creation. It is the place where God lives and the fullest revelation of God’s life. “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father,” Jesus tells Philip. Don’t think this is only about Jesus’ humanity. He has the same human nature as you and me. That means that our entire life, in relationship with Christ, becomes the entrance into the divine life.
From the moment of our birth up to and including our death we are all making entrances. Some seem routine and ordinary: entering home and family at the end of the day, entering work or school in the morning. Some entrances are about change: moving to and entering a new community, entering into marriage or parenthood, retirement, disease, old age and failing health. There are also emotional entrances. We enter into seasons of grief, places of fear, times of joy. In some sense our life is a series of entrances. Over and over again we enter places, situations, and the lives of other people. What do we see? What do we hear? What do we experience?
Our entrances are more than simply movements in time and space, from one location or minute to the next. Each entrance is the invitation to move to a deeper awareness and recognition that the place in which we stand is already filled with divine life. Each entrance is the opportunity to see that the world is already transfigured with the Father’s presence and beauty.
I suspect, though, we don’t often think much about our entrances and the doors through which we pass. Too often we enter unaware. We forget to look and see what is right in front of us. We need reminders. That’s what our newly renovated narthex is about. It is a threshold place, a reminder to slow down, to look, to listen, to unveil our hearts, our eyes, our ears, and experience that we are always stepping into the presence of God in Christ. That’s true every time we enter this place and it is true every time we leave this place.
That truth is not, however, limited to this place. So don’t leave the narthex behind. Carry it within you. Let it remind you that every entrance we make has a narthex, a threshold moment, pointing us to the one who is “the way, the truth, and the life,” and reminding us that fullness of God is right in front of us.
This sermon was for the Feast of St. Philip, May 1, and is based on John 14:6-14. That day was also the unveiling of our parish’s newly renovated narthex.