What if Acts chapter 8, had a longer ending? Have you ever wondered what happened when Philip returned from the desert and back to the other disciples? Well wonder not, here is one version, scribed from nothing other than my weird imagination;
Surprisingly, the Spirit of the Lord lifted Philip from the desert plain, straight into the meeting of the apostles in eastern Samaria that evening. They had been fraught with worry and about to ring the missing persons helpline, though Barsabbas was there with a set of straws hoping that he might be the replacement disciple this time. And Philip who heard the commotion inside the room, was led by the angel of the Lord to walk through the window, no reason, just something to distract them all.
And the disciples sat there stunned as Philip , full of desert dust and frazzled sweaty hair, appeared before them, no one moved except , Barsabbas, who chucked his straws to the floor. Well it looked alot like Philip, apart from that he was now white skinned: And Peter said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, It is I Philip, and I have had an amazing exciting pioneering trip out into the desert!, I am not sure why I am white, I was tanned before and have just been in the desert, but if thats what i need to be in this version of the story to fulfil the subtle racism in the 21st Century images of this part of the story, then so be it, but yes I am Philip, I am back’
And he then proceeded to tell them what happened in the desert on the road, with the Ethiopian. How he read to him from Isaiah and Philip has helped him understand where Jesus fits into the story, and how the Ethiopian was baptised and went away rejoicing.
‘‘What, You Baptised him?’ exclaimed Peter, ‘You didnt refer to the apostles handbook?’
‘err No’, said Philip
‘but you’re not licensed to do baptisms’, said Paul, (smug that he had just finished his training) you didnt get permission from us all.
‘I know’ said Philip, ‘but it was amazing, you should have been there, God was so real, the Ethiopian felt something and it was just like Jesus baptism itself, the one John, other John, used to talk about..
‘look what youve done now’, piped up Barnabas, who was usually encouraging, but today wasnt on record, ‘Up to now weve always worked in pairs, just like Jesus said so, what youve done today Philip is dangerous, and we cant have it again, one of us will now need to write a lone working policy’
‘Its more serious than that, said Bartholomew, quiet for 7 years but now given his chance to say something and get noticed somewhere in this whole episode, ‘Philip, what you have done is given the green light for anyone to do Baptisms, and ceremonies without asking the apostles first, what you have also done is taken the message out alone away from our council, gone individual, and who knows where that will end, what if one day therell be so many churches working alone and itll all be down to you, people splitting off and not asking to go, not telling anyone.’
‘Dont be alarmist, Bartholomew‘ Said Matthew, ‘that’ll never happen’
And then self appointed leader Peter stood up, he had become good at standing up in front of people by then, and started to make a speech, ‘In the beginning was creation, and then Moses, and then David and the prophets and..’ , ‘here we go again‘ said Bartholomew again, now confident that he was allowed to speak; ‘Peter, are you sure we are the right audience to hear that all over again?’ , ‘Sorry, everyone’ Peter quickly replied, ‘I was just rehearsing for next week, when I stand up in front of people again, anyway, maybe we need to solve this problem, we need a new language for this kind of ceremony that isnt quite valid, isnt quite what we endorsed, but doesnt deny that God might be in it, but also something that means that people can go off an do baptisms, or make disciples and evangelists, but they do so also knowing that they will always need the real church and real disciples to give them validity, we need there to always be the place for validity statements in the future if the church’
The disciples looked at each other, after this rousing piece by Peter and pondered and agreed, to discuss further.
Philip, by now breast-beaten and defeated, tired of the tele-porting from the desert to the board meeting, and wondering what had happened to the joy of the disciples, that turned into a business meeting, was sat in a corner, hoping for another Godly teleportation elsewhere, fairly quickly. He remember how good it was in conversation with the Ethiopian and how that man confused had left rejoicing, and whether he should have just got on his chariot and gone with him, and here he was in the disciples business meeting.
And Peter, Bartholomew and the others, including Paul, after a period of prayer and reflection, turned to despondent Philip, and said, ‘Well done, Philip, Youv’e just invented Fresh Expressions’.
(You could also add Youth Ministry, but thats going too far)
And here endeth the lesson, or at least here ended the extra portion of Acts 8, the return of Philip.