Leaping in Faith – Br. Todd Blackham

Isaiah 30:18-21
2 Corinthians 4:1-6
John 14:6-14
Psalm 119:33-40

One of my favorite places on the playground at school was the swing set.  Today, I still enjoy the gentle sway of the swinging bench in the cloister garden.  But, back then, I was interested in a more high-octane version of swinging.  I loved to push faster and higher to see how high I could get.  I tried on several occasions to swing all the way over the bar and have always been disappointed that physics just weren’t on my side in that endeavor.

As much fun as the swinging itself was, I also discovered the excitement of the dismount.  You could just let yourself come to a gradual stop, or drag your feet on the ground to slow things down quicker.  Or, you could time it just right and jump!  The thrill of being propelled into the air and landing what felt like several yards away was such a rush!  But it took a fairly careful calculation to get it just right.  Too soon and I’d skid to a halt and faceplant in the gravel, which happened.  Too late and I’d just kind of fall straight down and crumple to the ground, which also happened.  The best was when I was when I found that sweet spot and launched in a graceful arc and touched down like an eagle.  I had to be ready, I had to have momentum, and I had to have the courage to make the leap.

We remember two apostles today, by definition two who were “sent.”  We know a few things about Philip and James, we know less…  James was the son of Alphaeus and he is always listed among the twelve.  Tradition has distinguished him from James the Great, the son of Zebedee, and it’s unclear if he is the same James as in the book of Acts, son of Clopas, the so-called brother of Jesus.  But, his relics arrived from the East in Rome at the same time at St. Philips and so they have been joined in remembrance.

Philip appears a few more times in the Gospels.  He was one of the first disciples called by Jesus in the Gospel of John.  And, he seems to be a man of some readiness because he immediately went to find Nathanael and said, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”  And, Jesus gave Philip a little test one day when he was about to feed five thousand people, asking Philip first, “Where are we going to get enough bread to feed all these people?”  Philip’s response shows a quick mind for logistics, “Six month’s wages wouldn’t be enough for even a morsel for everyone.”

And in today’s gospel lesson, Jesus is giving some critical instructions to his disciples before his death.  Philip pipes up with another practical request.  “Jesus, show us the Father and we’ll be able to carry out the rest.”

He’s working his way towards understanding Jesus but hasn’t quite gotten there yet.  He’s been ready.  He’s been sticking around, he’s trying to glean information, and ultimately we know that he was finally able to step forward into his calling of apostleship.  Both Philip and James are remembered because they persisted in faith, and continued in their calling.  That they are remembered among the twelve bears witness to their victory of faith.  To paraphrase St. Augustine, “They had the living Jesus, which gave them the courage to found the Church.  We have the Church throughout the world that their witness to Christ is true.”

We remember that they had the courage and fortitude to remain loyal to Christ’s vision to the end.  And we can take courage to make the leap of faith when the time is right.   You see, it’s one thing to be sent and it’s another thing to actually go.  It’s one thing to see the works, and another to do them.  Jesus encouraged Philip that he would do greater works if only in that he would do them longer than Jesus’ brief ministry allowed.  And that would take an act of courage to initiate, to let himself trust what Jesus had said was true and walk out in it.  As the prophet Isaiah says, “You shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”  It’s one thing to know the path and another thing to walk it.

Like taking that leap from the swing set, at some point, I just had to jump.  Sometimes fear got in the way and I just let myself come to a slow stop.  But sometimes when my courage swelled I counted off, “One, two, three,” gave it one last hard push and went for it; and my body and spirit soared!

There may be any number of ways that you are being called to act courageously in witness to Christ right now.  Whether you are being called to a new form of service, or a tangible response to injustice, or the particular way you steward God’s resources generously, even sacrificially.  You can have readiness, and momentum, and at some point, you will have to make an act of faith in an outward direction.

One thing that always helped me make that leap was the loving encouragement of a buddy counting with me, even ready to jump alongside me.  In Philip and James, in the Great Cloud of Witnesses, we have loving, prayerful support encouraging us to make that leap, to do the works of love that we have seen in Jesus and to turn and encourage those around us to do the same.  May God grant us the courage to make the leaps of faith we are sent to make.  Amen.

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