What is a “member” of the Church? Use of the term “Member” in this situation is not the same as being a member of a club or civic group or fraternal organization. The Church is the “Body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12). Therefore, to be a member of the Church is to be a part of the living body of Christ.
Do you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your Lord? You are a member of His Body, which is the Church. Just as every member has a different function in the human body, so do we each have a specific function or calling in His Church. God did not create each of us to do the same thing.
If a member of the human body is missing, or is not functioning to its full potential, the entire body feels it and struggles to reach its full potential. In the same way, without all the members of the Church working together to their full potential, our ministries and the Body of Christ do not reach their full potential.
In the Holy Scriptures the Church is repeatedly called the Body of Christ. Paul rejoiced in his sufferings “... for His Body's sake, which is the Church (Col. 1:24)”.
Paul also wrote in his letter to the Ephesians that each of us has specific gifts given by Christ ". . .for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ" (Eph. 4:11-12) -- the Church.
At the same time, in every Divine Liturgy, bread and wine are made into the Body and Blood of Christ, and we, the faithful, receive them. Jesus told us to do this as He sat with His disciples at the Last Supper when He said, "Take, eat; this is My Body; ... Drink ye all of it; For this is My Blood of the New Covenant" (Mat. 26:26-28).
So you see that the “Body of Christ” is at the same time both the Church and the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
We the faithful are both members of the Body of Christ, the Church, and also communicants of the Body of Christ.
We are not using the name "Body of Christ" figuratively in either case. We mean “Body of Christ” in the most basic sense of the word. We believe that the Holy Communion in the form of bread and wine are the actual Body and Blood of Christ.
So what does all of this mean for each of us personally?.....
As St Peter wrote, the Son of God took on flesh and became man to make us partakers of the divine nature (II Peter- 1:4), to free us from sin and death, and to make us immortal.
When we unite ourselves with Christ, through Him we are united to one another in one Church.
Therefore, as people who have been united to Jesus Christ, we must also be His instrument for the fulfillment of His will, and become a part of the Body of Christ – in doing so we become stewards of the Incarnation.
We are united with the Body of Christ in the mystery of Holy Communion. The true Body and the true Blood of Christ which we receive in Holy Communion become a part of the great Body of Christ. But for this to take place, we receive Holy Communion with piety, love and readiness to serve Him, unite with Him and become instruments of His divine will.
When we receive Holy Communion, we are drawn out of ourselves and embrace our mission of stewardship, service and evangelization. We carry within us the fire of God’s love that has the power to renew all things.
Our task – as members of the Church is to see Stewardship as a way of life, and to help others to better understand the true meaning of Holy Communion.
This responsibility goes far beyond the Stewardship committee – All in ministry, all in teaching, all in leadership, all who bring their children to participate in programs, all who walk through these doors – all must be committed to this effort.
As true stewards of the Body of Christ, we understand the power of our Stewardship to revitalize the Church.
But if our stewardship is not grounded in the true meaning of the Eucharist as sacrifice and our responsibility as stewards of the Body of Christ, then we are only paying dues to some kind of social/religious organization. As Father John wrote in the October newsletter, “…the Church is not a charity at which we volunteer, she is our Mother whom we serve.”
When we understand the true meaning of Holy Communion, we bridge the gap between liturgy and life, between the love of Jesus on the cross and our daily lives, between our beautiful theology and spirituality and the practical stewardship to which we are called.
Jesus Christ is clearly visible to us today through His Church just as our own human spirit is apparent through our body. The Church is the Body of Christ both because all of us as members of the body are united to Christ through His divine mysteries and because through the Church, Christ works in the world.
Jesus Christ, took on human flesh in order to reunify us to Him and to each other. Our true nature is “we” not “I.” We are parts of a far greater whole. This is why we were created. This is why Jesus came into the world. This is why we unite ourselves to each other in the Church. This is why we give ourselves to Christ and to each other through the Eucharist. This is “who we are” “We” are the very body of Jesus.
It follows then, that as stewards of the body, it is our responsibility to keep the body whole by bringing people to Christ. This means bringing back those who were once active members but have now fallen away. It also means bringing those to Christ who are seeking Him for the first time.
We begin by bringing ourselves to Christ. But our responsibility does not stop there. The greatest gift we can give to another is Christ. Just like the four friends who brought their friend to Jesus on a stretcher, and when they couldn’t get close to Him, they opened the roof and lowered him down in front of Jesus. We are called to do the same thing --- to lay our brothers and sisters at the feet of Christ.
So we are stewards of our gifts, we are stewards of the Church as the Body of Christ, and we are stewards of this gift of the Orthodox Christian faith which we are called to share.
As we receive Jesus -- the greatest gift of all -- we can’t help but give back to Him, letting His light shine though us, building up His body with our time, our talents, our love, our care, and our gifts.
In the Parable of the three servants we read that their master gave each of them a certain number of talents -- a large measure of money -- to watch over and manage in his absence. Two of them wisely invested and doubled the treasure entrusted to them. The third one, out of fear, buried the talent in the ground and did nothing to make use of that with which he had been entrusted.
When the master returned, he found the results of each servant’s management of the property with which they had been entrusted. The master commended the first two servants, who had doubled the number of talents entrusted to them, saying, “Well done good and faithful servant….”
Let’s remember that Jesus said, “Well done good and faithful servant.”
He did not say, “Well said.”
He did not say, “Well planned.”
He did not say, “Well thought.”
And He did not say, “Well intended.”
But He said, “Well DONE, good and faithful servant.”
The emphasis for us as Christians is in doing.
We are called to give the best we have and to do the best we can to build up the Body of Christ.
And if we give Him our best – and He will know – then one day, He will also say to us, “Well done good and faithful servant.”