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.
In the early church, one was baptized as an adult, after having been a “catechumen” for two years. During the time when one was a catechumen, they were not only not permitted to receive Communion, they were not even permitted to stay for the entirety of the Divine Liturgy. There was a prompt in the service, after the reading of the Gospel and before the Great Entrance, before the Creed and before the Consecration of the Gifts, that all catechumens were to depart. This ritual has been largely suppressed in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in most parishes. It is heard during the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy during Lent.
One might say that during the period of being a catechumen, one was a disciple, a student. They weren’t allowed to fully participate in the life of the church. On the day of baptism, following this two year journey, they were baptized and commissioned as a Christian, to do what the Apostles were commissioned to do, to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19)
Because we are baptized as infants generally, and there is no period of education prior to baptism, we find ourselves having to be both disciple and apostle at the same time. We have each been given the mandate of the Apostles, to go, make disciples, baptize and teach, before we know anything. So, unlike the original disciples, we are to play both roles at the same time. We are to be continually learning about Christ (disciples), while continually encouraging other to learn about Him (apostles).
The commission given to each of us is the same—go, make disciples, baptize and teach. These are the four verbs, which we might call the “four orders” (as in military orders) given to each of us. These “orders” are for EVERYONE. They are not just for priests. They are for everyone. We all have a commission to recruit others, to bring others to Christ. While we may not be the one doing the actual baptizing, as that role is customarily done by the priests, we all have the commission to bring others to baptism, starting with our own children, and extending to anyone who does not know Christ. We all have the commission to teach, and in order to teach, we need to have learned something so that we can teach. We have to teach our children, our spouses, and our friends. We have to teach both by example and by specific instruction. We have to know enough about Christ to actually talk to someone about Him.
Here is a sobering question: Will anyone come to Christ because of me? Notice the question is not “Has anyone come to Christ because of me?” This is not the question because someone may come to Christ because of you and you won’t know it. You will have laid the groundwork for a decision that is made after you are gone and no longer around. The question is “Will anyone come to Christ because of me?” Will anyone come to Christ because of the way you are conducting yourself today? Will people see someone who is honest and genuine, loving and with a servant’s heart? Will they see Christ in you, even if they don’t know who Christ is? Or will they see someone who is self-serving and self-promoting? No one will see Christ in a self-promoter. People will see Christ in one who is a servant. And people will not come to Christ based only on what we say. They will come to Christ more based on what we do.
Christ founded the Church as a movement to change the world. And the method of changing the world is not found in rhetoric but in action. It is not found in words but in service. One can have the most impressive command of scripture, one can memorize lengthy prayers, and one can have valuable icons hanging on their walls. But these in themselves will not further the Gospel. The Gospel is furthered when our hearts our filled with love, when we use our hands to help, and our voices to encourage.
One doesn’t have to be a priest or a Sunday school teacher in order to be an Apostle. One doesn’t need to have expensive icons or extensively quote the Scriptures either. We can fulfill our commission to be apostles and spread God’s Word based on the service we offer to others. Focus today on serving others with a smile, with joy, with encouragement with reassurance. These are the things that Christ gave His followers on a daily basis—joy, encouragement, reassurance.
There will be many opportunities in your life, and most likely even an opportunity THIS week, when you will talk to someone who is having a hard time and could use some prayer. And there will be a choice you have to make whether to pray with someone or not. If you take that opportunity, you will be indirectly teaching about Christ, because you will be teaching that in a time of crisis, He’s the One that we turn to.
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. When I declared not my sin, my body wasted away though my groaning all day long. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to Thee, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; then Thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin. Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to Thee; at a time of distress, in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him. Thou art a hiding place for me, Thou preservest me from trouble; Thou dost encompass me with deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not keep with you. May are the pangs of the wicked; but steadfast love surrounds him who trusts in the Lord. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in the Lord! Psalm 32 (This Psalm is either sung or read at the Sacrament of Baptism, after the Baptism has taken place.)
We will be both disciples and apostles for the rest of our lives. So continue to learn and go out and recruit!
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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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