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The gifts [God] gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-13, NRSV 

+Bishop Dee Pederson
What you do matters, friends. Every day, God is doing life-giving things through you. Whether in cities, open-country, or towns, you are being the church in a changing era as God continues to re-form us today. 

As I think about each of you and your congregations as you lean into Holy Week, I am reminded of this message to the early Christians in Ephesus. St. Paul knows that our identity as Christians is given by God as we are joined to the oneness of the Holy Trinity. Read Ephesians 4:4-6 and count how many times the word “one” appears. Yes: seven! This pivotal section of Ephesians is all about unity; not uniformity, but unity that embraces all our varied gifts. Oneness. Having the mind of Christ, to whom you are joined in baptism. And this unity is seen as people are equipped for ministry that builds up the body. 

When Paul talks about gifts given to people in Christ, I do not believe he is saying that:  

  • only some have gifts; note how verse 7 names that each one is given gifts; 
  • some gifts are more important than others; or 
  • only these people are the gifts – although they certainly are gifts. 

But Paul IS saying it is by God’s grace that among us there are particular gifts for ministry in order to build up the entire body of Christ. 

How do you see these gifts lived in your community of faith? These are some that I have the privilege of seeing: 

  • Pastors and deacons who have worked hard to lead their congregations through and emerge from a global pandemic. Many are exhausted. It’s been a rough 3 years. And now they are gearing up for the most intense week of the year, with anywhere from 5-10 liturgies and sermons to prepare between Palm Sunday and Easter. 
  • Pray for them. Love them. 
  • Ask how you can assist. 
  • Provide clear communication. 
  • Ask what might help them know refreshment and renewal that will help them continue to lead strong. That might mean, for instance, providing a sabbatical or extra time off to re-charge. 
  • Church musicians are also preparing for those 5-10 liturgies and music offerings. 
  • Pray for them. 
  • Come early to worship and be blessed by the Prelude. 
  • Sing your lungs out! We haven’t been able to do that for a few Easters! 
  • Stay for the entire Postlude and give them your applause. Thank them for their ministry. 
  • Evangelists – this is all of us – people who help others know the love of Jesus in the things we say and do.  
  • Think about how good it feels when you walk into a new place and are welcomed with a smile and an authentically warm greeting. 
  • Pray we might have warm and welcoming hearts as new people come to worship during this holiest time of the year, seeking healing and words of life. Pray that they know the love of Jesus through you. 
  • Congregation lay leaders and call committees are working hard to lead faithfully and identify new rostered ministers for congregations hoping to extend a call. 
  • Pray for them. 
  • Ask how you can support them.  
  • Pray that God will raise up new people for full- or part-time ministry. Keep your hearts open for those you might encourage to consider this.  

As your Lent flows into Holy Week, may you be empowered, strengthened, and lifted up as you embody the gifts and oneness you have received in Jesus Christ.  

Gracious God, thank you for the variety of gifts you hand out to your people: apostles, prophets, evangelists , pastors, deacons, teachers, leaders, and all who serve. Sustain and empower each one as they prepare for the ministries of Holy Week and Easter. Build up the unity of our congregations. Bless those who seek new life in Jesus Christ. And send us to love the neighbors you give us. In the strong name of the Holy Trinity. Amen. 

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