st_cyril jerusalemPreached at St. Cyril of Jerusalem Orthodox Christian Church on Sunday, January 13, 2013

Ephesians 4:7-13

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 our Epistle reading this morning, we hear St. Paul say several things that are very important for us, as modern Christians, to hear – several things that are sometimes easily forgotten.

Firstly, St. Paul writes, “to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (v7). Sometimes we can be so preoccupied with all of the things going on in our lives that it’s easy to forget that we are all given grace! We are all given the grace of God. We received that grace constantly – in our prayer, in the Holy Mysteries, in the simple fact that we are alive and children of God. We are given grace by our Lord Jesus Christ. And St. Paul says, grace “according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” We need the tradition and help of the Church to properly understand the Scriptures, because this verse could easily be misread to say that Christ gives different people different grace according to the gifts He’s given them – in other words, it would be easy to paint God as playing favorites somehow by misinterpreting this half-verse. Instead, we’re taught that the meaning is: God gives us all grace, and He gives us the grace that we are prepared to receive. Our relationship with God determines the grace that we are capable of containing in our mortal bodies. God doesn’t give us grace that we’re unprepared for – if He did, we’d throw this grace away, and we’d be guilty for abandoning the grace of God. God gives us what we’re ready for — and even then, as is evidenced by our frequent going to confession, even when we’re only given our measure we lose the grace of God.

St. Paul then write, “He (Christ) Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (v11). St. Paul lists some of the gifts and talents that God gives to mankind. He does this in several places, and the lists are somewhat different in various books. The point is that God gives us specific talents and ministries! ALL of us, as Christians, are given spiritual gifts by God. It is super easy for us, as Orthodox Christians, to overlook this. In the ancient Church, and it should be like this today, the priest helped the people discover their talents, and he helped them use their talents both in the world and in the Church. We all have grace, and one of the major jobs of the priest/bishop is to help the people discover and nurture and use our talents. Unfortunately, far too often today, we tend to have the mindset that the priest is one called to minister, and the people are to be the object of his ministry. Yes, the priest is called to lead and minister to the flock of Christ. But, all of the members also have their gifts and their ministries, and it is the role of the clergy, working with the people, to help uncover those talents and to help see that they are used.

St. Paul then tells us exactly why we’ve been given grace and gifts of God: “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 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” (vv 11&12). These spiritual gifts that God bestows on us have a purpose! The purpose is really two-fold: equipping people for the work of ministry, and for the edification of the body of Christ. In other words, the gifts are to be used both in the Church, and in the world. We use our gifts to equip others and ourselves for ministry in the world. We can bring an aspect of Christian ministry to every secular job. It doesn’t matter what we do, we’re called to do it to the glory of God. We’re mutually prepared and strengthened for that ministry by one another in the Church. Our gifts are also for the edifying of the Body of Christ until we all come to perfect faith and knowledge of God. We help each other grow spiritually. We’re being saved together; the Fathers tell us that the only thing we can do on our own is go to hell. We use our gifts to minister in the world, and to minister in the Church.

I always tell people – there are two things our Church is to be doing. Really, there’s one: to glorify God. We the Church glorify God by doing two things – 1) bringing the Gospel to those lost in darkness in the world, 2) and growing ever more perfect, ever closer to our Christ, nurturing and growing the relationship of the Body (Church) with Christ (head). May we seek always to discern and use our spiritual gifts both to minister to the world, and to edify our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Author Matthew Jackson