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.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you.” John 20:21
The Great Commission—Part Seven
God Gives Us Grace to Cover the Rough Patches
“But take heed to yourselves; for they will deliver you up to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, to bear testimony before them. And the Gospel must first be preached to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say; but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” Mark 13: 9-11
Good morning Prayer Team!
“Grace” is a term that we don’t tend to hear often in Orthodox circles. Perhaps it is because it is such an intangible concept—you can’t hold grace in your hand or carry it around in your pockets. “Grace” is a gift from God, a way that God is made manifest to us. The best definition for grace is that “it heals what is infirm and completes what is lacking” in us. This definition comes from the sacrament of ordination, when a bishop prays over a man being ordained as a deacon, priest or bishop, asking for the Holy Spirit to send down grace upon him, to fill his “blank spaces” to heal what is spiritually infirm, to complete what he lacks, so that an ordinary man can do the extraordinary things that a clergyman is blessed to do.
Even though most of us will never be priests, this same kind of grace is available to each of us. We each have “blank spaces”, things in us which are spiritually infirm, fears, insecurities, crosses/struggles that we carry, etc. God’s grace has the power to cover all of them.
In today’s Scripture quote from the Gospel of Mark, Jesus told His Apostles that they would have some hard times—they would be delivered up to councils, beating in synagogues, and put on trial before governors and kings. These are pretty traumatic prospects, imagine being beaten in your own synagogue. Nevertheless, Jesus told them that they shouldn’t worry or be anxious, that in that hour, they would be given the words to speak by the Holy Spirit.
One of the most comforting verses of the Bible comes form 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” This verse comes immediately after St. Paul talking about having a thorn in his flesh, a messenger from Satan, sent to harass him. He is telling us that despite his own struggles, the grace of God was sufficient to cover him, for God’s power is made perfect, and honestly made more real in our times of weakness.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt scared or inadequate or unsure of what to say or do, when I lacked the right words to bring comfort to someone, and when I felt God’s grace coming over me, giving me confidence, providing me with the right words, guiding me to do the right thing. I can’t tell you how many times someone has recalled a conversation we had that they say was very profound, that I said or did something that changed their life. Most of the time, I not only don’t remember what was said, I don’t even remember meeting this person. And I ascribe this to God’s grace, which completed what I was lacking in that moment but didn’t allow the memory to stay with me, probably so that I wouldn’t remember and get a big head about it.
Part of having faith is not just trusting in something you don’t see, or believing in an end (heaven, salvation) that we can’t comprehend, but trusting the Lord to guide us along the path to get there. When the Holy Spirit came down on the Apostles on Pentecost, He gave them a tremendous gift, which must have brought them tremendous joy. Imagine how you’d feel if all of a sudden you were fluent in a language you didn’t know one word of. But with that joy had to have come some apprehension—what to do with this language, and where and how? Along with giving them the grace to speak in a foreign tongue, the Holy Spirit gave them grace to calm apprehensions and anxieties, to see the clear path to where they were going to take the message of the Gospel.
Grace helps us to not only put faith in the end, but in the means to the end. Talents are a manifestation of grace, but so is the wisdom to use them properly. Before sending them to all the nations to establish His Church, the Lord armed His Apostles with grace, the skills they needed and the courage they needed to use those skills. As we go through this study on being Apostles, we will learn not only about how the Lord gave grace to His Apostles to establish the Church, but how He continues to pour forth His grace on us, so that we have the skills and the wisdom to bring His Word to all the nations today.
Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of truth, everywhere present and filling all thing, treasury of good things and Giver of life, come and dwell in us, and cleanse us of every stain, and save our souls, O Good One. (Doxastikon, Matins of Pentecost, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
When you feel confident after you’ve been feeling incomplete and lacking, that’s God’s grace filling your empty spaces. He does it for all of us. Indeed His grace is sufficient!
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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