I think back on so many people that have had an incredible impact on this place, giving vast amounts of time and talent. There are far too many people but if you have been around here for very long you too might remember some people that are not with us any longer or are not able to attend as often as they might, like: Del Kaneen, Betty Edwardson, Clifford Johnson, Anne Anthony, David Overton, Jeanne Hopkins, Peter West, Betty Done, Geoff Nanson, Joan Ashley, Bill Keast, Jack Rush, and lots and lots of others. This is nowhere near a complete list, we’d be here too long if it was, so please bring to mind the people you remember as part of this parish. It is the people of course that make St. Philip’s what it is. The people on staff, in the choir, on the committees, the altar guild, the Church School. The people who have set up bowling pins or set up for a Rummage Sale or set up for the Christmas Services. For being part of a church community involves giving of time, talent and treasure and we have seen that in spades for 90 years. It is the people living out their faith that has caused St. Philip’s to not simply be an Anglican Church but a centre in the community and a spiritual home to many, even those who never attend Sunday worship. Our presence in this neighbourhood is vital and a sign of hope to a vast number of people. You who have gathered here today and all those who have gone before us are a source of inspiration.
In the reading from St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, we heard these words: “For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” And this has been the message proclaimed by us in a whole variety of ways over ninety years. We have become the Body of Christ in this part of our city, responding as best we can to shine the light of Christ in our own lives and into the lives of others. We have heard God’s call to us and have responded in how we have lived and moved and had our being. There are hundreds of excellent memories. And of course it has not all been perfect. There have been difficult and trying times as well. There have been painful moments in our history and of course that is always the way it has been and ever will be. The movement of the Holy Spirit through a church community is not as simple and peaceful summer filled days, there are times of hard work and great resolve that we will model our lives on the light of Christ shining our midst in this day and in this time. Not always easy but so much a part of being the Body of Christ in our time.
Very much related to this, we heard in our gospel today Philip pleading with Jesus: “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus was amazed by his request but I am not. Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Philip’s quest was to try to fully understand. He could not always see the presence of God around him. He did not always see God in obvious and clear ways. He did not always feel the manifestation of God at all times and in all places. What he was naming was what all people of faith experience, that there are times when we need to grow in our understanding of God and our awakening to God, God coming to us in new and wonderful ways. He was not sure how to keep his eyes open to the presence of God and Jesus invited him to simply look at him. See the presence of God in the face and eyes of Jesus. But don’t let it stop there, allow that presence to shape and form how we live and love and laugh and weep. Know God amongst us and around us. Here at St. Philip’s we have recognized Philip’s request of Jesus as our own quest over ninety years. We have been encouraged to see the presence of God in these four walls but also beyond. In the words of Scripture and in the Eucharist we share but also when we go out the doors in the beauty of the world and the beauty of the faces in all those we meet. We have seen and continue to see the presence of God in the face of Christ but also in our lives and in our world. We have always been about transformation as we aim to continue to be a resurrection people in the world of today.
Recently I read an article written by David Brooks in the New York Times, entitled A Moral Bucket List. This is how it began: “About once a month I run across a person who radiates an inner light. These people can be in any walk of life. They seem deeply good. They listen well. They make you feel funny and valued. You often catch them looking after other people and as they do so their laugh is musical and their manner is infused with gratitude. They are not thinking about themselves at all.
“When I meet such a person it brightens my whole day. But I confess I often have a sadder thought: It occurs to me that I’ve achieved a decent level of career success, but I have not achieved that. I have not achieved that generosity of spirit, or that depth of character.
“A few years ago I realized that I wanted to be a bit more like those people. I realized that if I wanted to do that I was going to have to work harder to save my own soul. I was going to have to have the sort of moral adventures that produce that kind of goodness. I was going to have to be better at balancing my life.
He went on to say, “Commencement speakers are always telling young people to follow their passions. Be true to yourself. This is a vision of life that begins with self and ends with self. But people on the road to inner light do not find their vocations by asking, what do I want from life? They ask, what is life asking of me? How can I match my intrinsic talent with one of the world’s deepest needs?
He concluded the article by writing: “(These people) do not build their life by being better than others, but by being better than they used to be. Unexpectedly, there are transcendent moments of deep tranquility. For most of their lives their inner and outer ambitions are strong and in balance. But eventually, at moments of rare joy, career ambitions pause, the ego rests, and they look out at a picnic or dinner or a valley and are overwhelmed by a feeling of limitless gratitude, and an acceptance of the fact that life has treated them much better than they deserve.
I have seen that here, over and over in the many years that I have walked through the doors. In the people and in the place. This is what St. Philip’s is all about. A place grounded in God’s grace that is about renewing ourselves and others, it is a transformational kind of place. Like St. Philip we recognize in Jesus the true presence of God, we know the Spirit with us, working amongst us, in our lives and in this place and she has changed us. We are confident in God’s love holding and blessing and guiding us. We are blessed by this Holy Spirit today and have been since the very beginning in 1925. Like those who have gone before us we are a people who have been changed by the words and actions of our faith and in turn have changed others to see that indeed God is amongst us.