• Epistle Reading
  • In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be! In today’s Epistle reading, St. Paul talks about something that we don’t hear talked about that much in the Orthodox Church today. Spiritual gifts. Gifts of grace, given by God to men. We often hear about the spiritual life, the struggle to unite ourselves to Christ and to shun the way of sin. And we certainly hear many other Christian groups talk a lot about spiritual gifts, with various meanings and interpretations. But what does St. Paul, and following him the Church, teach about the gifts of grace bestowed by God on Christians? There are several places where St. Paul lists various types of spiritual gifts—but specifically this morning, he refers to gifts which are given for the “equipping of the saints,” and the “edifying of the body of Christ.” When we come to the actual list—“apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers”—in the Orthodox Church we often immediately put in “priests and bishops.” We immediately default to the idea that the people who are to build up and equip the body are to be the ordained clergy. And this thought isn’t entirely wrong. The clergy are set aside for the building up of the Church, for the preaching of the Word and the administration of the Mysteries. But if we look to the very first verse in this morning’s reading, we’ll see that stopping with the clergy does a great dis-service to the rest of the Christian body. St. Paul begins by saying “to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gifts.” Each one of us is blessed to assist in the equipping of the saints and the edifying of the Body. But we’re not all blessed in the same way. We don’t all have the same gifts. Some are apostles—they’re sent into the world to spread the good news of salvation in Christ. Some are prophets—they reveal God’s will and plan to those around them. Some are evangelists—an evangelist is very much like a preacher, gifted with the ability to tell others about Christ. Some are pastors—put in place to lead and guide the flock. And some are teachers—sent to educate and enhance the ability of others to enter into a meaningful and real relationship with Jesus Christ. Each of us has a gift. In the same way that we are unique human beings, our gifts from God are unique. And St. Paul’s list isn’t exhaustive. There are many gifts that are necessary in the Church. Not only preaching and teaching, but discernment and love and wisdom and charity. Each one of us is placed in this community, in McComb MS, because this is where our gifts from God are needed. This Church needs the people who are placed here by Christ. Some Christians have multiple spiritual gifts, and some struggle for many years to discern what our place is in the Body of Believers. But we each have the grace of God enabling us with gifts from on high. Gifts with a specific goal—“till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” The Body of Christ isn’t being grown and edified for no reason—the gifts are given so that every last human being can come to the fullness of the knowledge of God. We’re all called to be perfect. And the spiritual gifts given by God to the Church are to help assist each and every person to grow to perfection. “To the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!