TRINITY 9 (PROPER 13 YEAR B)

Epistle Eph 4 Ė 1-16    Gospel: John 6.24 Ė 35

Today the readings are concerned to draw our attention to Godís gifts. The Gospel speaks of the inestimable gift, as the old Prayer Book has it, of the most holy sacrament of the Lordís Body and Blood. Moses gave the bread which sustained the Israelites in their journey to the promised land but Jesus gives the bread which sustains us in eternal life. The Epistle declares that Christ gave gifts to us when he ordained the sacred ministry of the Church and the epistle speaks of other wonderful gifts God has lavished on us: the one Church established by his Son Jesus Christ and one Baptism by which the unity of the Church is manifested and sustained.

These all sound rather colourless abstractions and Godís gifts are not like that. They are a real dynamic, full of life and memorable. So I suggest we think of actual examples of these gifts. Think of particular priests who made a deep impression on you and influenced you for good. That was Godís gift. Think of occasions when you have experienced yourself in a situation when you felt the gift of unity, perhaps in a reconciliation, a coming to understanding and agreement which you longed for but thought impossible. It was Godís gift.

Godís gifts are for everyone, though not all receive what he longs to give. In his gifts we see Godís great love for all the human race today and down the centuries. At the same time his gifts are individually tailored to each individual; in a sense they are unique. In this we see Godís wonderful care and concern for every person as his own specially loved child.

All Godís gifts proceed from the God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in you all. Some gifts are specially associated with our Lord Jesus Christ, who is God the Fatherís greatest gift. The Epistle writer wants us to understand that Christís gifts are available because he descended from heaven and became one of us and on the cross overcame the powers of evil and led them captive when he ascended to the right hand of the Father. His gifts are the product of his redeeming and saving work.

The letter to the Ephesians lists especially Christís gift to the Church of the sacred ministry; the foundation ministry of apostles and prophets and those who became their partners and successors down the ages. Christ gives these ministers out of his loving concern for the Church to build it up and fill it with his divine life. Their ministries are diverse in character but all in different ways express the person and ministry of Jesus. Thatís why they proceed from him in the fullness of his human and redemptive life.

The Church is one, brought into existence by the one sacrament of Baptism. By Baptism our sins are remitted and we become members of Christ and of his one Church. Sadly we find ourselves unable to receive at one altar the body and blood of Christ of his eternal life. Yet Christ is for ever striving to love the members of his body into unity, to heal the disjointedness and to make us grow into that perfect maturity which truly expresses who and what he is.

In conclusion, it goes without saying that we should thank God for his gifts. We may use verses from the psalms to express this but the old Prayer Book rightly says that we should express our gratitude in our lives as well as on our lips.  We should use Godís gifts and understand his purpose in giving what he does both to all and to each individually. His gifts to each point out his vocation for us. He gives for a purpose. In general, to build up his Church, the household of faith; in particular, to develop us to full maturity not in stature but in  our union with and in Christ, to whom be glory and praise now and always.

Crispin Harrison CR