Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Servant Gifts, Mission, Persecution and the Body of Christ

Servant Gifts, Mission, Persecution and the Body of Christ
Fr. Dale Matson 05-19-10

In our Wednesday Epistle lesson for the daily office from Ephesians, Paul tells us about Spiritual Gifts and in this passage; he is referring to what could be called “Servant Gifts”. Although the Gifts of the Spirit are generally attributed to the Holy Spirit, it is clear in this passage that these Servant gifts were bestowed by Christ. These gifts include Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers. In the twelfth chapter of First Corinthians, this Sunday’s Epistle lesson for Pentecost, Paul makes the Trinitarian nature of the gifts evident when he states, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of Service but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working but the same God.” (v. 5)
It is fitting that Paul should emphasize Christ as the giver of the Servant gifts because those gifts are primarily provided for the building of the Body of Christ through the equipping of the saints. And what is this equipping that Paul is referring to? Paul is referring to equipping for the battle that is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness in high places. Later in Ephesians (Chapter 6), he talks about putting on the full armor of God. This includes the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet prepared to spread the Gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.
Many church leaders in their zeal to involve parishioners will distribute “gift surveys”. Unfortunately, these surveys often are listing talents and are asking the individual him or herself to identify what his or her gifts are. I believe that it takes one to know one. By this I mean that discerning these gifts is a gift in and of itself and is required to identify these gifts in our brothers and sisters in Christ and to see these gifts in a dormant form in immature Christians. So often we attempt to emulate strategies used by churches deemed as successful because of the large memberships. Is this the metric of Christ that St. Paul is referring to?
There are at least three things that the Church as the body of Christ needs for genuine growth. The church needs to be in mission, it needs to be under persecution, and it needs to truly understand itself as the body of Christ. What is happening now in our church is a gradual understanding of and commitment to mission. Mission is not something that is left to others in a distant land. It is what each of us can contribute to as a church where God has placed us. It is those with the gift of Prophesy who call us back and remind us why we are a church. It is those with the gift of Apostle who give us vision and mission. It is the Evangelists who can see further than the church doors to the neighborhood, the city and beyond. It is those with the gift of pastor and teacher who help comfort and equip the saints.
Our church is under persecution from apostate leaders within the body of Christ. It is under attack by a secular society that is desperately in need of the Gospel message and the church is under attack by a government that wants more than separation from the church.
Finally, the church needs to see itself as the body of Christ. We don’t just need each other’s company for fellowship and worship. We need each other’s gifts for spiritual survival. To really know your brother and sister is to recognize and respect their gifts and in light of that to recognize our own limitations. The church is an army God has raised against evil. Onward Christian Soldiers. Amen.

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