According to the Measure of Christ’s Gift

Tuesday, Aug 7th, 2012

               When we want to learn more about the calling of God, we quickly turn to Ephesians 4:1-16.  We read of the general calling to all Christians to be humble, gentle, patient, "bearing with one another in love," striving for unity and peace (vv. 2-3).  We hear Paul's ringing call to participate in the Body of Christ through the Spirit, affirming One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God of us all.

               The Apostle then turns to the individual calling and giftedness of Christ's followers who each were given "grace according to the measure of Christ's gift" (v. 7).  Generous beyond measure, this grace makes possible the vocation of the church, the "new human race in embryo," in the words of Rowan Williams from his thoughtful Why Study the Past: The Quest for the Historical Church.

               On Sunday I participated in the ordination of LuAnne Nickell Prevost at the Metro Baptist Church in New York City.  It was a joyous occasion as this vibrant, prophetic congregation in the Hell's Kitchen section of Manhattan gathered around this Central alum to confirm her calling to the ministry of chaplaincy, a pastoral specialization for which she is abundantly gifted.  With adventuring courage, while a student at CBTS Tennessee, Rev. Prevost completed an internship at Sloan-Kettering Hospital in NYC and discerned her vocational home.  While there, she became a part of this congregation which offered a new vision for Baptist identity.  They rightly claim each other!
 
               Full of actors, artists, academics (enough of the alliteration), urban farmers, community developers, teachers, and others, Metro Baptist Church is a fresh expression of Gospel ministry in a place of yawning disparity between need and resources.  But according to whose measure? The Epistle lesson suggests that Christ has provided all that is needed to make his presence known in the world and complete the tasks he began in the power of the Spirit.  Christ's descent and ascent is so "he might fill all things" (v. 10).
 
               NYC SkylineWorshipping with the congregation, sharing a meal, and then participating in the ordination service offered a glimpse of the power of the Gospel, according to the measure of Christ's gift.  The mix of races, economic classes, ages, and differing abilities, demonstrate the church's conviction "that everyone is created by God in the likeness of God to be a full participant in God's redemptive plan."  The calling of each and the calling of the congregation is celebrated at Christ's table and the basement tables where all are welcome. [As LuAnne led in Eucharist, she struggled to break the loaf; a veteran congregant behind me stated quite audibly: "it goes the other way."  I was reminded that all are needed to "keep the feast."]
 
               God continues to call persons to faith in Christ, to join his work in the world in the company of others fired with a holy longing to "put the world to rights," another phrase of Rowan Williams.  And God continues to call those who will "equip the saints for the work of ministry" (v. 12).  Central has the privilege of working with the Spirit of God to refine the contours of the calling.  It is a holy calling, to be sure.
 
Molly T. Marshall
 
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