Monday, May 1, 2017

Feast Day of Philip and James

If we celebrate feast days, at some point between May 1 and May 3, we would celebrate the feast day of Philip and James.  They are two lesser-known disciples.

In John's account of the feeding of the multitudes, Philip is the disciple who talks about the cost of feeding everyone.  Later in John (chapter 12), Philip is also the disciple approached by some Greeks in a crowd who ask to be introduced to Jesus.  Philip tries, but Jesus gives a mystical answer (so typical for John's Gospel) that later readers see as Jesus talking about his upcoming death and withdraws.  And then he goes off and hides.

Clearly, Jesus doesn't understand the value of ecumenism the way that later cultures will.  Clearly Jesus isn't interested in networking, the way that modern business would have us all do.

If Philip lived today, Philip would be the one who went to business school.  Philip would write books about the irrefutable laws of leadership.  Philip would be the cautious one reminding us of what the true costs of our discipleship would be--and he wouldn't be talking about it in Bonhoeffer terms.  He'd have some sort of mathematical formula to show us what we should spend time doing, what would pay off.  He'd talk about opportunity costs.

I feel a bit of fondness for Philip.  Each of us probably has our own inner Philip.

Still, I recognize some of my behavior when I read these limited accounts of Philip.  I often feel like the one who doesn't quite get it.  I often feel like the one who comes up with a solution, only to be brushed off.  I feel like the one voicing perfectly reasonable objections while not understanding the miracle that's right there in front of me.

We all feel that way, like there's a group of cool kids, and we linger at the periphery never excluded, but not really included either.  I joke about expecting to be able to graduate from high school some day.

I wonder if bosses understand this dynamic and use it to control workers.  I expect that some nefarious bosses do.

As someone who supervises people now, I wonder how I could turn this dynamic around.  How can I make sure everyone feels included?

Marx would probably tell me that it can't be done.  He'd talk about the alienation of the workers.  Today is May 1, after all, a holiday that celebrates work and workers and solidarity forever.

It's also May Day, where we might have celebrated in earlier cultures by leaving flowers on doorsteps.  Maybe my elementary school teachers had the answer:  construct a Maypole!

In some ways, it's the same answer Jesus gives us.  Jesus sees an aching need and wants to feed a crowd.  Philip gives the answer that many of us would give:  too costly, can't be done.  Jesus creates such a miracle of abundance that there are 12 baskets of leftovers.  It's a Maypole of a miracle.

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