In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen! In today’s Epistle reading we heard about the choosing and ordaining of the first deacons in the Church of Jerusalem by the Apostles. Already in this earliest phase of the Christian Church, we see the various orders and functions of the clergy taking shape. And in this we also see that each of us, ordained clergy or not, man, woman, child, each of us has a function in the Body of Christ. In the Acts of the Apostles we read that after Pentecost the Apostles were preaching and teaching and healing many people, and the Church in Jerusalem was growing very quickly. They were making enough of a stir in Jerusalem that the leaders of Temple had them arrested and warned them to stop preaching in the name of Jesus, and they were even beaten with hope that they could be intimidated and forced to stop their ministry. Of course, we know from the Tradition that they didn’t stop preaching the Gospel of Christ, and eventually all of them except John the Theologian would die a martyr’s death. But the Apostles weren’t the only people in the Church doing something. We know from the Epistle reading that there was a daily distribution of food. Members of the Christian community brought food, and other necessities, to be distributed to the poor and the orphans and the widows. Primarily this function helped support the members of the Church, The Christians were “taking care of their own,” so to speak. But even those in need outside of the Church were offered support as the Christian community was able. The Church was not only spreading the Gospel through teaching, but they were attempting to live the Gospel teachings of Jesus Christ as well. So when problems arose in the distribution of goods, the Apostles didn’t stop their preaching to oversee this mission of the Church. Instead, they appointed, and ordained, men as deacons. As servants—to ensure that the work of the Church was handled in a fair and godly way. Different people in the Church had different roles. The role of the Apostles, from verse 4, was to give themselves “continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word”—to unceasing prayer and the preaching of the Gospel. They couldn’t leave their role to serve the tables. So others were chosen, the deacons, to oversee that particular ministry. And from this context we also know at least one other role—some members of the Body were able to provide the food and the goods that were being distributed to the poor. In this very brief passage, we see at least three major things happening in the early Church in Jerusalem. And of course, from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians we hear a list of other ministries that were being performed in the Church—apostles, prophets, evangelist, pastors, teachers. (Ephesians 4:7-16) In other places he lists even more. The life of the early Church has something to teach us all. What we in the modern Church in America can never forget is that each and every one of us is called to a particular ministry in the Church. And the ministries are incredibly varied. Prayer—both private and together in worship, is a ministry in and of the Church. Offering our gifts both material and non-material (our time, our ear, our prayer, our physical labor) Some of us are called to serve at the altar, and others to preach and evangelize in our communities, or teach our own people more about the spiritual life. The Apostles and the members of the early Church were never content to sit and bask in the great blessings and grace that God gave them. They were always pressing forward, always eager to share the gift of life with Christ. All of our ministries center on this—sharing with others the gift that Christ has given us. Sharing with others the salvation that is offered in the Body of Christ. We can never be content. Not in our own spiritual lives, and not with the state of our Churches. The Fathers teach that we’re always moving—so if we’re not moving forward, we have to be moving backward. We’re called to always be growing more in the likeness of Christ. And we’re called to always be sharing His Gospel with those around us. The Church is for everyone—and until everyone is safely in the sheepfold we have no right to rest. And in this constant pressing forward, we all have a role. As with any Body, the Body of the Church is composed of many members. And none of the members can take another’s job, and none of the members can do a job that they aren’t designed for. But everyone has to make their contribution. We all have to do what God has given us the grace and the gifts to do. And He has given all of us the grace to offer something in the Church. The natural consequence of our growing relationship with Christ is that we minister within the Church, and outside of these Church walls, to those around us. Calling all mankind to the richness, and the fullness, and the completeness of human life that can only be found with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

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