The Feast of the Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of Jesus as the Messiah to the gentile world. In the season following the feast, we are reminded of various ways he manifested his messianic role – miracles, healing, preaching, teaching, and calling people to follow him.
He spent time with those who responded to his call, forming them into a community, equipping them to continue his messianic work in the world. Each follower of Jesus was given gifts for this work. Some were placed in positions of leadership to provide the formative experiences for others in the generations that followed. In this way, the community of followers of Jesus, the Church, is strategically ordered to advance his mission from generation to generation.
Writing to the followers of Jesus in the city of Ephesus in the first few years after Jesus ascended into heaven, St. Paul wrote of this way of ensuring the future of Christian mission:
“But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7, 11-13).
Notice that the “work of ministry” is entrusted to “the saints.” Who are the saints? The saints are the members of Christ’s Church, the followers of Jesus. Our Episcopal catechism expresses it this way, “The Church carries out is mission through the ministry of all its members” (BCP, p. 855).
Larger congregations, like ours, have several members of the clergy and a number of staff members. It is easy to see the clergy and staff as the ones who carry out the Church’s mission. Sometimes even the clergy and staff begin to see it that way. However, when that happens, the saints are deprived of their missional opportunities. It is our responsibility to help each member discover his or her gifts and discern ways in which Christ wants those gifts to be used, with God's help, in the ongoing mission of Jesus Christ.
Some are called to serve primarily within the life of the Church. Others are called to ministries out in the world at our doorstep. Many are called to do both! Christ calls each of us to be engaged in his mission. Every member has a ministry! Vibrant, fruitful churches are filled with people who believe that and exercise their ministries to the glory of God, thereby building up the Church in pursuit of Christ’s mission.
So, during this season when we recall those whom Christ called to follow him during his earthly ministry, we reclaim and reaffirm our own vocations. Where are you called to serve Christ in his Church? If you know, your clergy and staff are here to assist you and support you. And, if you are not sure, we are here to help you find a ministry that is right for you.
Tomorrow, I will send out a message announcing this year’s engagement campaign, “I Will, With God’s Help.” Building on last year’s campaign, we are hoping once again to have strong participation in this effort to engage everyone in the ministries of St. Andrew’s Cathedral. There is a long list of possibilities in the survey we have prepared. Please watch for the email. When it arrives, I invite you, in the name of Jesus Christ, to take some time to review the opportunities and respond to the call to serve in one or more ways.
By responding to your vocation, your call, you give us the privilege of fulfilling ours! Please let us hear from you.
The Collect for the Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany is a good prayer to offer while you are considering your call to serve.
O God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
I’ll see you in Church!
The Very Reverend Ronald D. Pogue
St. Andrew’s Cathedral