At first hearing them, Paul’s words in our second reading from the Letter to the Ephesians might sound a little pompous when he speaks of “the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you”. It sounds like he thinks he is some kind of special dispenser of God’s grace. However, after thinking about it for awhile, we realize that he is in fact a dispenser of God’s grace, and that his statement is not at all pompous, because we are all supposed to be very special and unique dispensers of God’s grace to the world around us. Just as God was revealed to the wisemen through Jesus, God still reveals himself; only now, God uses us (the Body of Christ here on earth now), and it is not only rich wisemen that seek him.
We hear a lot about our responsibility to see Jesus in those around us, and that is good and true. But we must also remember that we have the responsibility to make sure that others can see Jesus in us. We may never realize it, and we may never know who it is, but each one of us has someone looking to us for a revelation of God. They may not know that that is exactly what they are doing, and they may never put it in those words, but that is in fact what they are doing, and we do it to others, even though we might not realize it or put it in those words. We rarely feel adequate to the task of being divine revelations to the world around us, and certainly we will fail and disappoint some people, but that doesn’t take away our responsibility.
As Isaiah says in our first reading: “Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you;”. We must never forget that no matter how difficult and draining it is, many people look to our monastery, and to the different families and congregations represented amongst our guests, for a glimpse of Jesus. We might not like that fact, but it doesn’t make it any less true. It is very easy to be like Herod in our gospel story this morning when the wisemen came to him seeking Jesus. Matthew says: “When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him;”. Another translation says that Herod was “perturbed”. It is indeed easy to be frightened or perturbed when so many people count on us for a glimpse of Jesus, because we don’t feel adequate to the task of being a divine revelation. But if we read the rest of the story, some of the pressure is taken off.
After all, when God was revealed to the wisemen, it was in very humble circumstances. They found him at home, sitting on his mother’s lap. Knowing that God can be revealed in such a mundane way makes our job easier. It means that the mundane things we do can serve as revelations of God. For those of us who live outside the monastery, it means that every time we are thoughtful enough to use our turn signals when we are driving, or every time we honestly fill out our tax returns, or every time we wait our turn in line at school, or every time we do our chores at home without complaining or being a smartmouth to our parents, we are revealing a little bit of God’s love to the world around us. For those of us in the monastery, it means that every dish we wash, every floor we mop, and every difficult letter or phone call we answer is an opportunity to show God’s love to the world around us. In fact, the thing that we put the most effort and expense into, and in which we receive Christ most intimately here in the monastery and in the home congregations of our guests, is the humble setting of a meal, as we gather around the table up here as guests of Jesus.
So, in the words of Paul to the Ephesians, “the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you” is not pompous. It is a simple as letting people in front of us on the highway, or rewinding a videotape before returning it, or refusing to repeat gossip. Like Paul, we have been given grace so that we may give grace. We are the only revelation of God that many people will ever see. Every kind word we say and every loving deed we do in our own unique way and in our own little part of the world lets God shine forth. So let us come up here and share a simple meal with Jesus, so that we can share Jesus with others in simple ways. AMEN