But WHY?

It seems the book by Simon Sinek “Start With Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone” has struck a chord with many. And the question is “why does asking why help so very much?”

The answer is found in knowing the fundamental nature and purpose of any activity. You can use a hammer to do many things, from nailing a board to a stud to breaking a window to even more nefarious and criminal acts, but “why” was the hammer made in the first place? Answer that question and you’ll get to the very nature of a hammer’s existence. If it works for a hammer, imagine what kind of clarity asking “why” of yourself can achieve. The fact is, it isn’t a mistake that one of the first questions a toddler learns to ask is “why.” If you know the why, you will discover the what. If you know the purpose then you will discover the nature and the value of any idea or even person.

It’s why this week’s Gospel Lessons focus so much on St. John and his ministry as Forerunner. John was born to tell us the “why” of the coming of the Messiah. John told us that Jesus would baptize with the Spirit; that He would take away the sins of the world (by the way, that isn’t hyperbole. John really meant it and Jesus really did it); that Jesus was “the Lamb of God” and every faithful Jew of that day understood that a lamb was meant for sacrifice. Knowing the “why” of St. John gives us a powerful head start in exploring the very nature of the Messiah he was sent to proclaim AND the message we should still proclaim about the ministry of our Lord Jesus today.

Our Epistle Lesson today answers another fundamental “why” of our faith. St. Paul is writing to the Ephesian Church and he tells them about the five foundational ministries of the Christian faith and “why” they exist and “what” they are meant to accomplish. This is one of those passages that deserve your attention, a highlight pen, and some serious study. Look at Ephesians 4:7-13 and you’ll see what I mean. St. Paul mentions five ministries, five callings, five gifts to the Body of Christ that were given by God to His Church to accomplish three vital goals in the Church.

The five ministries, gifts to the Church are Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers. Apostles are the first wave of declaring the faith and they establish churches, then Prophets are the “forth tellers” (not fortune tellers) of the faith. They declare the Truth and support the development of the new churches established by the Apostle (by the way, the Prophets aren’t necessarily very popular at times). The Evangelists preach the Good News to further the growth of the churches by drawing more and more people to the faith. The Pastors nurture the spiritual growth of the churches and “father” the communities as good shepherds following the example of the True Shepherd. And the Teachers, well that’s pretty self explanatory. But “why” is this five-fold ministry given? What makes this group of gifts to the Church so perfect for accomplishing the purpose of God in redeeming the world?

Because this group of gifts in the Body of Christ accomplishes the three vital goals of the Church being fundamentally what She is – The Continuation of the Ministry of Jesus in the earth and spread over all the earth. These three goals are there in the passage: to EQUIP the saints -You – for the work of ministry. This is why we have banished the word “committee” from our parish. We have ministry teams instead of committees because each of our faithful are ministers using their particular gifts to make the community strong and Orthodox on Purpose. Next, to BUILD UP the Body of Christ. You can always tell when someone is being faithful to their calling when their actions serve to build up the community instead of tearing it down. The five-fold ministry is meant to foster that kind of activity in the Church. Finally, to ATTAIN the Unity of the faith and the KNOWLEDGE of the Son of God so the people will be MATURE and GROWN UP as believers.

Today, where do you fit in this perfect design for creating a new universe based on the Love of God and salvation in Christ? Why are you an Orthodox Christian? If you hadn’t been born in an Orthodox Christian family, would have chosen Orthodoxy? Are you about discovering the “why” of your presence in the Body of Christ?

Today the Holy Spirit has gifted your Church with the five-fold ministry created by God to bring you to “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” All you need to reach that glorious calling is at your feet, preserved for 20 centuries by the Lord Who loves you so that you will truly understand your own “why.” May God bless us all as we remain faithful to this spiritual journey of discovery and spiritual growth.

P.S. Please keep Presvytera and I in your prayers as we travel today to Charleston SC to speak at a retreat for Saturday. Ask the Lord to bless the work so that we can contribute some benefit to the parishes who gather.

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