Epistle for the Sunday After Theophany
In the Epistle reading for this Sunday after the Feast of Theophany, Apostle Paul speaks to us about the diversity of gifts measured out by Christ to His devoted flock, and also of the heights and depths of the sanctification of Christ… this great expanse and diversity of Grace all working together for the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, drawing us upward to the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Our Epistle reading for today begins, ‘But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.’ When an Orthodox Christian is baptized, the newly illumined child of God is anointed with chrysm with the words, ‘The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit’. Through the grace of the waters of baptism, our fallen human nature is washed clean and, just at the Spirit in the form of a dove came to rest upon Jesus Christ when He was baptized by John in the River Jordan, the same Holy Spirit comes to us and bestows the spiritual gifts which God measures out to us.
It is fitting that we read this Epistle on the Sunday after the feast of the Baptism of our Lord, for it draws our attention and reminds us of the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit given to each of us at our own baptism. Let this time of year be a source of spiritual renewal for us, looking upon the new year with hope and resolution, blessing our homes with the waters of Theophany, and reflecting upon the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Apostle Paul speaks of the diversity of gifts which are measured out by Christ. ‘He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.’ God has not created a cookie-cutter mold for His servants… each of us is unique, each of us has different circumstances in which we find ourselves, yet each of us has been given certain gifts and talents which we must discover and put into use for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Part of the message of today’s Epistle is a call to us to discover what it is that we can do for the Church and for the glory of God. The spectrum of needs is great and the spectrum of gifts and talents to be offered is also great and diverse.
As we begin this new year, I encourage each of us to reflect on how we can help build and strengthen the body of Christ, how we can manifest the gifts which God has measured out to us.
Our little parish of St Herman’s has been blessed in this past year with growth and with a genuine spirit of love and community. This is a wonderful thing and we must thank God for it. How do we continue this good trend? How do we assure that the same small percentage of parish members are not always saddled with bearing both the financial and the participatory burdens of the Church?
We can do so by offering our talents to the Lord in the service of his Church. This is your Church… I want you to feel that it is so, because it is. And we can make the Church our own as we participate more in the life and the needs of the Church.
There are many things that we can achieve if we all work together. This old building needs a number of repairs (new windows, fixing the heating system that makes the choir loft a sauna while the ground floor remains an igloo!) and there are many other goals that we would love to achieve… but this burden cannot rest on the shoulders of a small minority… it requires all of our participation.
I know that this is challenging. I know that today’s life leaves us very little time and very little money and very little energy. But if we are to make St Herman’s thrive, it requires our effort – because the reality is that there is no-one else who can do this, but us. This is our Church and it is only we who can and must support it! I ask each of you to think and pray about how you might participate in the life of our parish.
We are called by Christ to be His Body, the Church. Let us do what we can to serve Christ’s Church. And I want you to remember this as well… while we have practical needs here in our parish community, Christ’s Church is calling to us in all aspects of our life.
Listen to the words of Fr George Calciu, a recently reposed Romanian priest who suffered many long years in prison during the Communist reign in Romania. He gave us the following testament:
‘You are in Christ's Church whenever you uplift someone bent down in sorrow, or when you give alms to the poor, and visit the sick. You are in Christ's Church when you cry out: ‘Lord, help me.’ You are in Christ's Church when you are good and patient, when you refuse to get angry at your brother, even if he has wounded your feelings. You are in Christ's Church when you pray: 'Lord, forgive him.' When you work honestly at your job, returning home weary in the evenings but with a smile upon your lips; when you repay evil with love—you are in Christ's Church. Do you not see, therefore, young friend, how close the Church of Christ is? You are Peter and God is building His Church upon you. You are the rock of His Church against which nothing can prevail.... Let us build churches with our faith, churches which no human power can pull down, a church whose foundation is Christ....Feel for your brother alongside you. Never ask: 'Who is he?' Rather say: 'He is no stranger; he is my brother. He is the Church of Christ just as I am.'
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ… if we can hold to that vision of Christ’s Church and can make this place a ‘spiritual recharging station’ for that kind of compassionate love; if we can strengthen one another and can give of our talents to support the parish – letting this place be that source of light, that then enlightens our lives and the lives of those around us… then we will begin to fulfill our calling as Christians and to build and support His Holy Church.
May God grant that this be so!