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 Book of Acts and the Early Ecclesia—Part Nine
Beating With One Heart and Soul
Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the Apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the Apostles’ feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need. Thus Joseph who was surnamed by the Apostles Barnabas (which means, Son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field which belonged to him, and brought the money and laid it at the Apostles’ feet. Acts 4: 32-37
Good morning Prayer Team!
Good advertisers know that people don’t understand or internalize something the first time they hear it. That’s why we see the same commercials over and over again. That’s why they come up with catchy tunes or slogans. It takes at least seven times to hear the same thing before it stays in your mind. That’s one reason to read all four of the Gospels. Because each is similar (especially Matthew, Mark and Luke) and we read many of the same stories, each told a different way. But the more we read, even the same thing, the more it resonates on our minds.
It was only a few reflections ago that we discussed how people shared everything they had with one another. And here, only a couple of chapters and a couple of reflections later, we hear virtually the same story again. The Book of Acts is filled with these stories, because preaching and charity were the most important works of the early church. And they should still be the most important works of the Ecclesia.”
In today’s Scripture passage, perhaps the most important phrase is that “the company of those who believed were of one heart and one soul” (Acts 4:32) While we are pretty much ALL quick to dismiss the concept of everyone turning in their individual possessions for the common good (monastics do that, and that is a very admirable thing), the idea of a community beating with one heart and soul is actually something not only desirable but attainable.
Most have seen, in the movies if not in person, a group of soldiers marching in formation. It is really something to see, when a large group of people moved in lock-step with one another. They are all individuals of different heights, with different gifts and certainly with different thoughts, but when they march, they march as one group. And in their service, they serve with one heart and one soul. That’s why the military is probably not for everybody. Because when you join, you willingly submit to obedience and orders. You know when it’s time to march, that everyone, including you, is going to march to the same tempo, in unity.
Joining the Christian faith, as we will discuss, is a lot like joining the army. We are joining God’s army. And there is an expectation that we will get in lock-step with the message and then move forward as one. I have half-joked with people that if we took 100 members of our church and had them stand on a line and then told everyone to take a step forward at the same time with their right foot, there would be people who would step forward with their left foot, there would be people who stepped backward, there would be people who wouldn’t move, there would be people who wouldn’t understand the simple directions and there would be people who would ask “Why should I?” Perhaps that is the reason why it took Moses forty years to get the people of Israel to the Promised Land, because they were not united, they didn’t move with one heart, one soul and one purpose. Today’s example from Acts is not just part of a story but send a message to us.
The people in today’s scripture passage not only moved with one heart and one soul, but they moved forward with one treasury, put into by all, and shared with all. They “surrendered” all that they had. It was then that “great grace came upon them all.” It is in surrender that we move as one and receive God’s grace. I’m certainly not suggesting anyone sell everything they have. That is not feasible for us. But to seek to move as one body in our Ecclesia will do three things: It will make sure that our message gets out. It will make sure that no one is spiritually needy (if we are all looking out for one another in our spiritual lives). And it will bring God’s grace upon us even more.
Preserve me, O God, for in Thee I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “Thou art my Lord; I have no good apart from Thee.” As for the saints in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight. Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows, their libations of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips. The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; Thou holdest my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritable. I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also dwells secure. For Thou dost not give me up to Sheol, or let Thy godly one see the Pit. Thou doest show me the path of life; in Thy presence there is fullness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore. Psalm 16
Let’s work to walk with one heart and one soul in our Ecclesia each of us doing our part!
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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