Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. Proverbs 16:3
Today we finish this long unit on “my participation in the life of the church.” Over the past thirty-three reflections, we’ve discussed the various aspects in the life of the church—commitment, enthusiasm, generosity, fellowship, evangelism and intimacy. We could probably add a few more aspects to this list as well.
The Church is the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ is composed of millions of members. Each one has a role to play in the furthering of the Gospel. There is no one who doesn’t have a role to play. In order for the Body to function properly, each role must be filled.
I saw a science video once that was talking about the complexity of the human body. For instance, I remember the video said that when a person starts bleeding anywhere, there are over two hundred things that happen in the human body so that the bleeding will stop. Imagine if even two or three of those things don’t happen, a person can bleed to death. In order for a small cut not to be a fatal injury, the systems of the body work together to stop the bleeding.
It’s the same thing in the church. In order to advance the Gospel, we need more than Bishops and Priests. We need more than beautiful churches and well conducted services. The message of the Gospel is rather simple. However, spreading the Gospel is a little more complex. The members of the body, all of them, need to work together in this task.
First and foremost, we need to be committed Christians. One who is committed is committed all the time. There is no such thing as a part-time commitment. Either we are committed or we are not.
The Church needs us to be enthusiastic. There is enough cynicism in the world, there really is little place for it in the Church. The Church doesn’t need any “debbie-downers” who seek to thwart the mission of the church by throwing wrenches at the priest or the parish leadership. While the leadership of the church is never going to be perfect, since the church is administered by imperfect human beings, we all need to focus more on the effort and come at the church from a place that is positive and optimistic. The church also needs us to come with enthusiasm. To drag ourselves to worship or mope around is not going to get us or anyone else close to the Lord.
The message of Christ is generally delivered by a volunteer army. Yes, we pay our clergy and other staff, but much of the message is disseminated by volunteers. Without volunteers there is no Sunday school, no GOYA, no choir, and much more. We need to be generous with time, with talent and with treasure. It is not enough for the Church to have sufficiency or to survive. The Church is supposed to thrive, and it is supposed to share with those who are in need. The paid people in the Church also need to be committed. Priests and lay workers need to serve for more than the paycheck.
The “Divine Fellowship”, Holy Communion, is the centerpiece of the Church. However, there is no Holy Communion without fellowship of people. It requires “people” in order to celebrate the Eucharist. And outside the Eucharist, people remain connected to the community through fellowship. They help one another through fellowship. They support and encourage one another through fellowship.
The number one “job” of the church is to spread the Gospel. This is what we call evangelism. Every person who has ever become an Orthodox Christian has been commissioned to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. In order to be an “Evanglist,” one first must learn. But we don’t learn only for our sake and for our own salvation. WE are to learn in order to help others on the path to salvation.
Finally, intimacy with God is a necessary part of the equation. In order to have intimacy, there must be humility and vulnerability. When we fall short, and we all do, we need to come to God in confession and repentance, so that our relationship remains intimate. As today’s verse from Proverbs 16:3 so simply states, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” When we commit ourselves to the Lord, we express intimacy. When we commit ourselves to one another, we express enthusiasm, fellowship and generosity. When we help others commit themselves to the Lord, we express evangelism. Put all of these together and we are well on our path to personal salvation. Put all of these together and our church is well on the way to fulfilling its mission. Yes, there is an important role to play in the Church for all of us. Let’s all go all in!
Why does Thou stand afar off, O Lord? Why dost Thou hide Thyself in times of trouble? In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor; let them be caught in the schemes which they have devised. For the wicked boasts of the desires of his heart, and the man greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord. In the pride of his countenance the wicked does not seek Him; all his thoughts are “There is no God.” His ways prosper at all times; Thy judgments are on high, out of his sight; as for all his foes, he puffs at them. He thinks in his heart, “I shall not be moved; throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.” His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue are mischief and iniquity. His sits in ambush in the villages; in hiding places he murders the innocent. His eyes stealthily watch for the hapless, he lurks in secret like a lion in his covert; he lurks that he may seize the poor, he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net. The hapless is crushed, sinks down, and falls by his might. He thinks in his heart, “God has forgotten, He has hidden His face, He will never see it.” Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up Thy hand; forget not the afflicted. Why does the wicked renounce God, and say in his heart “Thou wilt not call to account”? Thou dos see; yea Thou dost note trouble and vexation, that Thou mayst take it into Thy hands; the hapless commits himself to Thee; Thou hast been the helper of the fatherless. Break Thou the arm of the wicked and evildoer; seek out his wickedness till Thou find none. The Lord is king forever and ever; the nations shall perish from His land. O Lord, Thou wilt hear the desire of the meek; Thou wilt strengthen their heart, Thou wilt incline Thy ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. Psalm 10
The Church will “live” better when we all fully participate in it!
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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