Return to Sermons | Home

“To Each One of Us Grace Has Been Given As Christ Apportioned It”
Ephesians 4:19


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Seventh Sunday of Easter—Sunday after the Ascension—Confirmation Sunday—May 20, 2012

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The communist leader Karl Marx famously said that the government should follow the principle, “To each according to his need, from each according to his ability.”  This has been tried since in many countries, with terrible, tragic results.  In the practical, political realm, that idealistic principle simply doesn’t work for governing a country.  It doesn’t work because we humans are all sinful.  By nature we are inclined not to altruistic generosity but self-centered greed. As we confessed in our opening liturgy, “We are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against you in thought, word and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.”

But, what doesn’t work in the political realm is exactly the principle Christ uses to govern his Church in the spiritual realm, “To each according to his need, from each according to his ability.”  Or, as Paul puts it in today’s Epistle Reading, “To each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

The greatest grace that all followers of Christ have been given is the grace of forgiveness.  As Jesus tells the disciples in today’s Gospel Reading, “The Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations.” 

Jesus suffered death upon the cross and rose from the dead as a sacrifice to pay for your sins and earn you forgiveness.  For 2,000 years this message of repentance and forgiveness of sins has been preached to all nations, believed by faithful followers, and has come down across the centuries and around the world to us, so that today these young people will confirm their faith in Christ as their Savior.  As the book of Acts says, “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. . .  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”

That is the greatest grace that all followers of Christ have in common, the grace of forgiveness and faith in Christ our Savior.  In addition to this universal Christian grace that all believers in Christ have received, he gives to each of us a unique set of gifts and graces, for service to him, and his Church, and one another.  “To each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

The spiritual gifts bestowed by Christ and using them to his glory is a major theme of the New Testament.  Paul puts it this way in 1st Corinthians: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

Next Sunday we will begin a summer sermon series on the stained-glass windows of our church.  In a way, the Church itself is like a stained-glass window.  Just as the window is made up of many individual pieces with different sizes, shapes, and colors, Christ’s Church is made up of individual members with different gifts, talents, and abilities.  As Paul says in Romans, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.”  Imagine these same stained-glass windows, but made up of identical pieces, all the same size, shape, and color.  Just as the beauty of a stained-glass window comes from the rich variety of its individual pieces, the beauty of Christ’s Church is found in the rich variety of its individual members. 

Paul expresses this another way in Romans and 1st Corinthians when he compare the varied members of the Church to the varied parts of a human body: “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,  so in Christ we who are many form one body. . .  If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body. . .  Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 

“To each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”  What are the gifts, talents, and abilities the Lord has graciously given to you for service to him, and his Church, and your fellow man?  If you’re not using your gifts to his glory it is like a stained-glass window with a piece missing.  As Peter says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”

In today’s Epistle Reading, Paul tells us why, what motivates you to serve God with all that you are and have: “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” This is the time of year that we celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, to thank our parents for all they have done for us.  Through Holy Baptism your heavenly Father made you born again as his beloved child.  That’s what motivates you to use all that you are and have in service to him.  As Paul says in 2nd Corinthians, “He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for him, who died for them and rose again.”

Today is the Sunday after the Ascension of our Lord, which was observed last Thursday, when forty days after Jesus’ resurrection he was received into the heavens where he is seated in glory at the right hand of God the Father.   But, although Jesus is no longer with us bodily, he is still at work in the world.  He is at work in the world through his Word and the Sacraments, and he is also at work through his Church, through you and me, and the gifts he has given us.  As Paul concludes today’s Epistle Reading, “When he ascended on high . . . he gave gifts to men.”

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”   What are the gifts, talents, and abilities the Lord has graciously given to you for service to him, and his Church, and your fellow man?   “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”   “To each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Amen.

  Return to Top | Return to Sermons | Home | Email Pastor Vogts