No, I haven’t posted this picture as a warning against DIY haircuts during the lockdown- this is a picture of St Philip and St James, the patron saints of one of our churches- St Philip and St James, Hallow, whose patronal festival falls today.
Both Philip and James were members of that first band of twelve friends Jesus chose to confide in, to teach, to share meals with, to explore with. It seems quite likely James was related to Jesus- either a half brother or a cousin. Philip was from Bethsaida- the same town as Andrew and Simon Peter, and we hear about his call in the very first chapter of John’s gospel. They were both friends of Jesus from the very beginning of his ministry. And they both remained as his disciples until they died- Philip we think in about 80AD as a martyr in the Greek city of Hierapolis which is in the south western corner of the modern nation of Turkey. We don’t know exactly how or where James died but he has traditionally been believed also to have died as a martyr. He is associated with the letter of James, so well loved, practical and direct in its teaching.
We remember them together because relics of their bodies lie in the same church in Rome, which was dedicated to them in the year 560.
Essentially though, these two men were just peasants from Judea, called from little towns that would look more like villages to us, from circumstances that were ordinary at best. They caught the excitement of a new sort of life from their conversations and experiences with Jesus, and it turned their lives, and the lives of many thousands of others, upside down.
But they were also disciples who scattered when Jesus was arrested- and locked themselves into an upper room out of fear.
Like us- perhaps- they had moments of great and certain faith and excitement- and moments when they were afraid, uncertain, and perhaps feared that they had been foolish to trust in Jesus and his fine words at all.
But Jesus knew what he was doing. When he called these two very ordinary men they would never have imagined that 2000 years later we would still be talking about them, honouring their memories and naming our buildings after them. Very rarely do we catch a true glimpse of what God has in store for us. But we should have confidence that even for those of us who come from very unexciting- even unpromising beginnings, there is always a future that is bright and complete and joyful. Things may not always appear so to us- but James himself counsels us to be patient when things are hard going
Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.9 Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! 10 As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
On this “St Philip and St James” Day- lets offer ourselves afresh to all the unexpected things the Lord may be calling us to, confident that his compassionate and merciful purpose will be fulfilled. May God bless you today