Easter 5 May 14, 2017
Acts 6, 1-7 + Psalm 33 + 1 Peter 2, 4-9 + John 14, 1-12
St Peter and St William Church, Naples, FL
About two or three years ago I was in a great museum with two families who are dear friends. Another friend who is a guide and docent was leading us around talking mostly to the children at my request. She led us into the Egyptian section which caused me to roll my eyes, but then she asked the children what they thought of the statues representing the gods. The children took some time to explore and came reporting that: “They don’t look real.” Then she led us into the Greek and Roman section, and after a few stories about mythology, she sent the children around to explore. Then she asked them again what they thought of those gods. They said: “They look angry and violent.” Then we went up to a gallery with very early Christian art, and she asked the same question. “They don’t look like real people” was the answer. Finally, we ended up in the Renaissance section, and to the same question the children said: “They look real and beautiful.” What the guide led them to see is that after the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, something changes in terms of how we see God. I think of that afternoon in the museum today when hearing Phillip’s request, “Show us the Father.”
The sculptors and artists reveal what humans have done since the truth about us was revealed in the story of Adam and Eve. Being made in the image and likeness of God requires some humble obedience, but we seem to prefer the other way around and make god in our image. Those children got it right. In describing the gods they saw, they were really describing the people who made them: angry, violent, and fortunately not quite real.
When Phillip says: “Show us the Father” he expresses one of the deepest longings in the human heart. We want to see God, the real God, not a god who could pass for one of us. We want a God who is perfect in every way. God’s response to that plea was to take on human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, and the consequence of the incarnation was to restore us, God’s beloved creation, to our original condition as the image of the real and true God. Progress has been slow and resistance is great. The scribes and Pharisees resisted clinging to their preference for a harsh and judgmental God enforcing their rules and regulations. For a time, the apostles resisted with their efforts to rain down fire and destruction upon those who did not welcome them. Our resistance is marked by our failure to embrace the model of what we were created to be: perfectly and beautifully human as revealed in Jesus Christ. The Son of God does not only reveal the Father. Jesus also reveals what it is to be perfectly human as well.
The excuse we make for our failures: “Well, I’m only human” is the first and most obvious sign that we are resisting. Being “human” is not something lowly, inadequate, or sinful. It is not an excuse. It is testimony that we have not believed, understood, or accepted the wonderful mystery of what is revealed through the Incarnation. Being human is the highest, most perfect and God-like of all God’s creation. Nothing else created was in God’s image.
When Phillip cries out, “Show us the Father”. Jesus says, “Look at me. The Father and I are one.” When we want to see the Father, we should be able to look at one another, a people made holy and redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ. When someone is seeking God, why should they look any further than into this holy place when we have filled it with our presence. The key teaching of John’s entire Gospel is here in these words. Jesus is God’s only self-description, God’s only command, and God’s only dream for humanity. In other words, if we shape our life on Christ, not only will we be fulfilling God’s will, we will become the kind of humans God has always dreamed of reflecting God’s love to all we meet. Anyone who meets us, a people born in Baptism and fed on this Eucharist, should have seen the Father and need look no further. This is what God wills and dreamed of in God’s own creation.