Today we remember the Holy Myrrh-bearing women who, on the day the Resurrection, came to the tomb and discovered that our Lord Jesus Christ was no longer there, but that He had conquered death and rose from the dead. They were charged with the awesome responsibility of taking this news to the Apostles. By giving the Myrrh-bearers this task, our Lord demonstrated again that there was no barrier to women in the Kingdom of God, but that their role was no less important than that of men in the Church.
In the reading today from the Acts of the Apostles, we see a small scene from the functioning of the early Christian community – the Church – that had gathered around the Apostles. As we recall from last week this community lived “in one accord” with one another and with Christ, each doing what they were able for the benefit of all. A disturbance arose in the life of the community such that some complained that the widows and orphans from among the Gentiles did not receive the same attention as those who were from among the Jewish believers. When this complaint was brought to the attention of the Apostles, they also realized that they were unable to address all the needs of the community themselves for they would soon be swallowed up by the details and be distracted from their primary task of proclaiming the Gospel and of teaching the believers what had been revealed to them by Jesus Christ. In response to this they then appointed 7 deacons who would take on the responsibility to care for the needs of the community.
Here now we have before us three different groups: the Myrrh-bearing women, the Deacons and the Apostles. Each group had its place within the Body of Christ and yet each group had its distinct role and composition. This reminds us that while we are all part of the same body of Christ and that we work together for our salvation, at the same time, we all have different roles within the Church. This was plain to us just this past weekend as we put on our annual festival. Everyone worked together, everyone was necessary for the successful completion of this labor, however no one could do everything. There were those who prepared food, those who served food, those who managed the dining area, those who cared for the money, those who picked up the trash, those who washed the dirty dishes and so on. No one was without purpose and all played an indispensable part in this labor.
In the Body of Christ, each one of us has a place and a role given to us by God. We too often think that there are only a few who are important and the rest are just interchangeable parts of less value. Nothing could be further from the truth for all are important and all have a place in the Church prepared for them by God. We depend on one another, we need one another as together we work out our salvation.
Of all these various people of whom we heard today in the early Church, there is indeed one thing which they all held in common. Even though they had different responsibilities and different places, they all realized that these roles always had to be completed to the glory of God. They never lost sight of the necessity to do all that they did with prayer and humility, trusting in God to bring all things to a good end. In our own experience, we try to remember that no matter how far we may seem to be from the doors of the Church during the festival, we are still in the presence of God and our labors are for His glory. Sometimes we forget that God watches over even the least of us and arranges the smallest details. We then take upon our own shoulders the responsibility to “fill in” for God and make sure that all the things that He had “overlooked” actually get done. We occupy our attention, our thoughts and all our energies with the doing of our task that we forget to pray, we forget to turn to our Lord for help and assistance. We easily remember to begin our labors with prayer and to finish with prayer – but sometimes we forget to pray in the middle. Like the Holy Apostles, or the deacons, or the Myrrh-bearing women, we cannot ever forget that our labors must always be bathed in prayer. No matter what you do, do not forget to pray and ask for God’s help and direction and provision while you do it. Be diligent that you do not allow your “responsibilities” to usurp the place of prayer in your life.
We are all part of the Body of Christ and we are all given those responsibilities that are best suited to our salvation. We do these things not for ourselves, but for the benefit of our brethren and for the glory of God. Above all, these things we do must never be allowed to push out prayer. There is a proper time, the preacher tells us, for all things (Eccl. 3:1ff) and so when it is time to work, we must work to the glory of God, however when it is time to pray, we cannot let our work prevent us from prayer. We all have a place appointed for us in the Church by God. Let us fill this place with humility and trust in God, doing all things for His glory.