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” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
ENGAGED: The Call to Be Disciples
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 28:19-20
The Invitation is For EVERYONE
The Lord takes pleasure in His people. Psalm 149:4
In our modern world, there are two interpretations for how invitations are offered. If only a select few are invited to something, accusations of favoritism and elitism follow. If everyone is invited to something, then there are platitudes about dumbing down or political correctness, “everyone’s a winner” and pressure to include everyone.
The invitation from the Lord for us to be His Disciples, His friends, this call is extended to everyone. And unlike the two kinds of invitations described above, the Lord is not exclusive or elitist in limiting the invitation, nor is He political or pressured in offering it to everyone.
The call to be Disciples is for EVERYONE, even if we’ve screwed things up. If you are living, there is no sin which you can commit from which you cannot repent. If you are alive, there is hope for you.
Let’s use an extreme example of repentance—a mass murderer. Most people don’t want to think there is hope of salvation for people who have committed heinous crimes. I personally believe that there should be no hope for freedom for people who have committed heinous crimes. I do believe there are crimes which merit incarceration for life with no possibility of getting out. However, there is no crime for which one cannot repent, though they may have to live out their call to be a disciple inside a prison cell. Ideally, as Christians, we are to pray for the salvation of all. Not necessarily freedom for all, but salvation for all.
Let’s look at a less extreme example. Most of us, thankfully, will not choose to commit heinous crimes. However, no one is perfect. We all have sins, large and small, from which we need to repent. The good news is that we are called to be Disciples, despite our imperfections. Christ called Peter, knowing that Peter would deny Him three times. Christ called Thomas, knowing that Thomas would doubt Him. Christ calls each of us, knowing that we will each sin. However, He KNOWS that each of us is capable of repentance.
There is a caveat to God’s call and that is that this call is voluntarily answered. No one is coerced to answer the call to be a Disciple. Christ does not force us to follow. Christ invites. It is up to each of us to accept the invitation. Christ tells us that there is a judgment coming over each human life, and answering the call to be a Disciple will factor in to our eternal judgment.
In Matthew 22:1-14, Jesus tells the parable of a wedding banquet. Many were invited. When the time came for the marriage feast, the king who was offering the banquet, sent his servants to gather the guests. Many guests made excuses not to come. In fact some of the guests even killed the servants who went out to greet them and invite them. The king was angry and sent his servants to bring anyone they could find into the feast. One man was there who had no wedding garment. The king ordered him thrown out. The parable concludes with the phrase “Many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14) It would not be a stretch to interpret this verse as “many are called, but few choose to accept the invitation.”
The King is Christ. The servants are the original Disciples (as well as the “disciples” who have come after them throughout the centuries). Many of the invited guests have refused the invitation, and have even killed the messengers, the disciples. Being a Disciple means accepting the invitation to attend, and also becoming one of those who share the message, who extend the invitation to others. Being a disciple isn’t always easy, as we see from the servants who were “treated shamefully and killed.” (14:6) The reward is being at the banquet with the King, being with Christ in the Kingdom. The invitation to “come” is for everyone.
Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, His praise in the assembly of the faithful! Let Israel be glad in his Maker, let the sons of Zion rejoice in their King! Let them praise His name with dancing, making melody to Him with timbrel and lyre! For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He adorns the humble with victory. Let the faithful exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their couches. Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands, to wreak vengeance on the nations and chastisement on the peoples, to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron, to execute on them the judgment written! This is glory for all His faithful ones. Praise the Lord! Psalm 149
Christ is inviting YOU to His “banquet”—both for today and for eternity! Will you be one of the ones who “choose” to accept?
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
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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