Today the church honors St. Philip the Evangelist, not to be confused with Philip the Apostle…or any of the other nine hundred Philips in the ancient world. Seriously, it’s like they were short on names…
Philip was one of the Greek speaking disciples chosen in Acts 6 to distribute food to the widows and the poor in Jerusalem. This was the first organized ministry we have recorded by the ancient church, and note that it wasn’t planning a Harvest Festival, Rally Day, or a Christmas Bazaar.
It was feeding people.
Philip would go on to preach the gospel in Samaria, where Simon the Magician was said to be converted by him. It’s worth explaining that “Magician” in the ancient world probably meant “Sorcerer,” which is pretty cool if you think about it.
St. Philip would be the one to break down barriers in the church when he encountered the Ethiopian eunuch on the road and helped him make sense of the scriptures. This important Ethiopian was a sexual minority, and I think it’s important on National Coming Out Day (here in the United States) to honor the fact that St. Philip in the First Century welcomed a sexual minority in the church through baptism.
If only the modern church would emulate St. Philip.
Well, actually, it’d be best if the modern church would emulate the Ethiopian, wrestle with the scriptures, and ask to be converted.
St. Philip was also known to have four daughters who were called prophets in the early church. They hosted St. Paul on his journeys, and it is thought that he ended his ministry life preaching and baptizing in Asia Minor.
St. Philip is a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that the organized faith has a long tradition of welcoming and affirming humans from all walks of life. St. Philip, when entertaining the possibility of withholding the sacrament of baptism from the Ethiopian, received pushback from the traveler, saying, “There is water here. What is preventing you?”
What prevents us from extending the accepting grace of God to people?
The question remains.
-historical bits from Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals & Commemorations
-I love this icon, but cannot find who wrote it. If you can find it, please let me know.