The Feast of Epiphany is the culmination of Christmas. Epiphany celebrates what it means for God to be present, to reveal Himself, to be manifested to the world. Last week, we considered John’s exhortations to receive the love of God and to walk in that love. We continue a similar theme this morning, thinking about the Church as the Body of Christ, the continuing manifestation of God’s Incarnation in the world.
Eph. 4 and 1 Cor. 12-13 have a number of obvious similarities. Both are concerned about the body of Christ, the gifts of the Spirit, and the primacy of love. Beginning with 1 Cor. 12-13, we should notice that love is the way gifts get sorted out. Not everyone does the same thing (12:29-30), and people can try to do things that aren’t their gig (13:1). And the difference is love (13:2-3). And this love is the love of God filling up God’s people and overflowing to everyone around them. The name of this love is the Holy Spirit (12:6-13). Paul has the same love in mind in Eph. 4:1-2, but Christ manifests His gifts differently in everyone (4:7, 11). But this gift manifests itself in love (4:15-16). Finally, notice how the gifts cascade out in love from apostles to teachers (4:11) for the equipping of the saints for the building of the church (4:12). Pastors don’t build churches; saints build churches. Pastors and elders equip saints to do the work of ministry. To be a Christian is to join the work of ministry. And Paul says that this is necessary for the unity of the Church and the maturity of the Church (4:13-14). In order for the Church to grow up into unity and maturity, the saints must be equipped and the saints must do the ministry. This is why ministry is one of the ways we fight sin and squabbles (Eph. 4:25-32).
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Jesus, Gifts, Interests, and Needs
How do you know what you’re supposed to be doing? Should you keep doing what you’re doing now? Should you go back to school? Should you sell the house and move across the country? Across the world? Should you have more kids? Should you give thanks for the ones you have and then look for ways to serve other families? Should you spend more time with your own family? Should you spend more time with your neighbors? Should you invest more energy in your hobbies? Work longer hours to have more to give to missions? And we could extend these questions generally to our congregation: What should Trinity be growing up into? Should we spend more energy and resources on ministry to the poor? Should we spend more energy and resources on missions? Should we spend more energy and resources on Christian education? The Biblical principle is not to worry about these questions but rather to “Seek first the Kingdom…” (Mt. 6:33) and “Delight yourself in the Lord…” (Ps. 37:4). Therefore, we begin with Jesus and His Kingdom and then we prayerfully consider and seek counsel regarding our gifts and interests and the needs around us. The love of God and neighbor orients and directs our gifts.
For the Ministry, For the Kingdom
Regardless, we are a congregation overwhelmed by the love of the Triune God in Christ, and we are therefore committed to returning this love to our King and overflowing to the Palouse. And since the love of Christ is no small thing, we need to be thinking big and long term about how we want to see the love of Jesus transform this community. This means we want to come here and offer all that we are to the Lord (that’s what the offertory means), and then be commissioned to use our gifts for Jesus.