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.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Holy Orders and Hopalong Cassidy

Holy Orders and Hopalong Cassidy
Fr. Dale Matson 05-04-10
When I was young, Hopalong Cassidy was my favorite cowboy hero. He didn’t smoke, drink or provoke fights but woe to the man who picked a fight with him. I’m fairly sure he never lost a fight or his hat in a fight. So, you ask, “What does William Lawrence Boyd have to do with holy orders”? William Boyd was an actor that decided to create a heroic figure different than the randy version in pulp fiction and then became that person in real life. He was changed by the role he played and the role was who he became. His public persona was a perfect reflection of the character and he never did anything that would bring shame on the character. He owned that character psychologically and financially. He had a deep manly voice with a hearty laugh but a gentle disposition. He dressed in black, carried two six guns and rode a white horse named “Topper”. I didn’t have a horse but I had one of his outfits and his two six guns when I was a kid. After nighttime prayers there was the additional security of the guns hanging on my bedpost. I even brushed my teeth with Hopalong Cassidy Tooth Paste. There was no role confusion and no doubt that he was a trustworthy man who could always be depended upon to do the right thing. He always treated women with respect and would tip his hat whenever he passed them on the street. To me it is like the ordination process. When we are called and pursue holy orders, we too are changed. With monastic’s, who take a vow of chastity, poverty and obedience, it is called conversion of manners. I would call it a transformation of the personality. Doing what you are called to do, no matter what that may be, brings forth what St. Paul would call the fruits of the Spirit. Like “Hoppy” I dress in black but Unlike Hoppy I do not have a script and am not playing a role even though I continually reflect on what I say to measure it against the instruction from my heart. We both came to California from the Midwest and each of us found it to be fertile ground. Boys were fortunate in my youth to also have people like Roy Rodgers, Gene Autry and Hoot Gibson who merged a public persona with a film character. It is really a matter of being consistent on the outside with who God is causing you to become on the inside. Amen