Epiphany 2, 2016
The Epistle. Romans 12:6-18
The Gospel. St. Mark 1:1-11
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
Last week’s Epistle lesson came from Paul’s famous and well-loved letter to the Romans. Chapter 12:1-5. This week we pick up where we left off in verse 6, going through to verse 18. There are only 21 verses in the chapter so we stop just sort of covering a whole chapter in two weeks.
Last weeks Epistle focused mostly on Paul exhorting us and appealing to us, by the mercies and grace of God, to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.
This, he says, is our spiritual worship.
It was a call to not be conformed to this world, but rather to live soberly and sacrificially in the presence of God.
But as we moved along and into this week’s lesson as well, the concentration shifts to our not being self-absorbed, but rather to think outwardly toward others.
Remember this letter as many are, is written to a Church congregation. This is not necessarily advice to the world, though all men should live in harmony with one another and should avoid worldliness…
…But think about this in terms of us here and with other Christians and how we are to consider ourselves as parts of a giant body.
The Church is a body. The Church is Christ’s body. We are all members.
We all have differing gifts therefore, and we all have differing contributions to its functioning.
It would seem that Paul is trying to establish this in our minds so that we consider one another at all times as fellow members of the same body.
Not all have the same function. Not all have the same gifts. Some excel in one thing. Some excel in others. Some excel in many areas.
But none of us is expendable. None of us is unwanted or unneeded. Each has a contribution. It is up to us to see how we might be of use and service to one another….this includes our lifestyle outside of the Church.
It all represents who we are in here each Sunday.
The appeal Paul gives in this chapter is that the grace of God would be used for the mutual edification and love and building up of one another.
Here is Paul’s use of the Grace of God again. “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.
Each of us has been given gifts…talents…abilities. Things possessed by us by the grace of God that are used in the mutual building up of one another and the worship of God.
We should not be mistaken to think here either that these gifts are some sort of supernatural ….or superpower that we are supposed to have.
Paul says that some, by the grace of God have the gift of teaching. Not a superpower of any sort there…but definitely not something all possess.
Some are just natural born teachers or have even developed a skill….but both are by the grace of God, by the way.
Some love to teach….don't do it well, and yet if it is used in faith to the edification of others and the glory of God, then it is a gift of God to be used.
There are others. Some have the gift of exhortation. This is a gift of encouragement…encouraging others. We probably all know someone who has a gift or a passion or a way about them that emanates encouragement.
Some have the gift of contribution. They have been perhaps blessed with the resources financially or in some way materially that they are able to put it to the use of building God’s Kingdom….helping others, assisting others.
These are the talents that we each possess …and we all possess something to contribute.
We should look at where we excel or where we feel comfortable or where we have a passion…or just where we can help even if we aren’t all that good at it….and there we will find our gifts.
Some Churches have their people pray, search deeply into their lives and discern their gifts and then fill out cards. That approach complicates things. And it can put undue pressure to come up with something that might be a gift.
We rather ought to simply view the Church as the place we belong and the place where our fellow Christians reside and do what we can, when we can, to be involved.
And notice also that Paul says, that if someone has a gift of teaching, they are to use the grace given to them to teach.
This keeps the one who has the gift focused on that and not on someone else and his gift. Each has his own station. Humility is the overarching theme here.
Calvin says of this: “Here then we have the main design which the Apostle had in view, that all things do not meet in all, but that the gifts of God are so distributed that each has a limited portion, and that each ought to be so attentive in imparting his own gifts to the edification of the Church, that no one, by leaving his own function, may trespass on that of another. By this most beautiful order, and as it were symmetry, is the safety of the Church indeed preserved; that is, when every one imparts to all in common what he has received from the Lord, in such a way as not to impede others. He who inverts this order fights with God, by whose ordinance it is appointed; for the difference of gifts proceeds not from the will of man, but because it has pleased the Lord to distribute his grace in this manner.”
All have some way of contributing to the mutual harmony of the Church without trying to do everything, stepping on the willingness of others or doing nothing and thinking they are being parts of the body.
Paul talks in other places about body parts vs. the whole and each having its own function. And that each should not despise the other.
“For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.
If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require.
But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:14-26 ESV)
A clear statement on the harmony of the Body of Christ.
The last portion of today’s Epistle is so clear it does not necessarily need breaking down.
Here are the marks of a True Christian body functioning well.
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.”
Well we certainly see one who has a full grasp of his call before God and is exercising his gift of prophesy. John the Baptist was in no way afraid to proclaim the coming of Jesus Christ…in no way ashamed of the Gospel.
…in no way afraid of calling people to repent of their sins…
…in no way afraid of political leaders.
…in no way concerned about his own fame when Jesus approached him at the banks of the River.
His words were, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
John, by God’s grace fulfilled his ministry and calling. Even in John we can see how God gifts men to fulfill certain roles in the plan of salvation and redemption.
Now, how might all this be tied to Epiphany? The Gospel is where we draw the Epiphany image from during this season.
The Epiphany here, is the revealing of the Messiah to the world…on the cusp of His ministry.
But even more so, it is an Epiphany of the Trinity as well. Here we have the Father speaking of how He is well pleased with the Son.
We have the Son present being baptized.
And we have the Holy Spirit present as well, descending in the form of a dove and resting on Christ in power and approval.
The Holy Trinity is the epitome of shared and yet in some ways separate functions. …but in perfect love and harmony with the others in the Triune Godhead.
Each person of the Trinity functions in the salvation of the world. Yet not all have the same function. For example, all are in complete agreement, but the Father was not Crucified nor was the Holy Spirit.
Some will describe God as the Father who creates us, the Son who redeems us, and the Spirit who Sanctifies us. This is directly from our Prayer Book.
However in another sense, all three are involved in the roles of the other. The Son, Jesus Christ, second Person of the Trinity was never without the Spirit while walking the earth…and Jesus said that He and the Father were One….making a distinction and a unique inseparable connection as well.
So today let us leave here rejoicing that we have this revelation of God today in our lessons and let the unity of God be the model for our being separate but all important and vital parts of the Body of Christ.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.