I have said this several times before, and those who come regularly to Bible Study know, that I believe it is very important to pay attention to those verses in Scripture that grab your attention while we are reading. They may be confusing, or troubling, or just really cool. Regardless, when a verse jumps out at us, we need to pay attention and dig deeper because the Holy Spirit is moving through us, calling us to work with the verse that has caught our attention.
I mention this, because it happened to me while preparing for today’s sermon. I was drawn toward the line “There is . . . one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Eph 4:6). We hear something similar in the Divine Liturgy when we say, “We offer to You these gifts from Your own gifts in all and for all.” Despite the similarity, however, these are two different statements and two different actions. God is above, through and in; and we offer.
Yet, when seen in their own contexts — the Anaphora and today’s Epistle reading — these two statements seem to parallel each other. In the Anaphora, just before we offer the gifts, we remember:
all that came to pass for our sake, the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the enthronement at the right hand of the Father, and the second, glorious coming.
We remember God’s actions. In the Epistle today, St. Paul begs us “to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Eph 4:1). In other words he calls us to action.
Thus, in the Anaphora because God acts, we offer and in today’s Epistle we are called because God acts. When placed side by side, these two texts suggest a flow chart or a diagram. Let me try to illustrate.
Imagine God and humanity separated by a great space as two points on a piece of paper. God is up at the top and humanity is down at the bottom. God acts — He sends us His Son, who becomes a man. We are given the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension, the enthronement at the right hand of the Father and the second and glorious coming. Christ then sends us the Paraklete, the Holy Spirit — please note that St. Paul implores us to maintain the unity of the Spirit (Eph 4:3). In response, we — humanity — act. We offer. The Holy Spirit descends upon us and the gifts set forth. The gifts become the Body and Blood of Christ. When we consume these gifts we are in communion with God the Father.
Thus, we have drawn a circle, if you will, with these points: on one side, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, humanity; on the other, humanity, Holy Spirit, Son, Father. This circle is a cycle of action. God acts, we act. We act, God acts. This is salvation and salvation history in a nutshell.
So, when St. Paul begs us, “lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Eph 4:1), he is telling us to plug into this cycle. God has acted. He sent us His Son. His son died on the Cross so that we can be the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Now its our turn to act. We have all been called to this cup, where we offer God’s gifts — the wheat, yeast, water, salt, sugar and grapes that we worked with to create bread and wine — back to Him.
God has given us more gifts than just wheat and grapes. We are called not only to rework the ingredients of the bread and wine — we are called to rework all the ingredients that make up our very lives. As we say several times during the liturgy, “Remembering our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever virgin Mary, with all the saints” who made their lives an offering to God, “let us commit ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God.”
Our whole life needs to be an offering to God. This is why we pray everyday. This is way we fast. This is why we give alms. These are exercises that prepare our mindset, to open our eyes to all the possible and creative ways that we might offer our whole life to Christ our God. Our eyes will be opened because we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. This morning in Orthros we sing, “In the Holy Spirit every divine man sees and speaks as a prophet.” When we pray, fast and give alms — we act — we participate in the Holy Spirit — we insert ourselves into the cycle of action. He will descend, He will inspire us, He will fuel our creativity to find ways that our lives — our jobs, our free time, our hobbies, etc. — can be offered to Christ our God. And when we offer through the Holy Spirit in Christ our God, we will find ourselves doing the will of God the Father. We will become participants in the salvation story where Christ is offered in all and for all. Amen.