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 Twenty-Three
It’s Not Just Worship—Learning is Important
But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. Acts 15:35
Good morning Prayer Team!
Later on in our study, we will discuss some of the mistakes we make as Christians and as a church as well as suggestions for how to correct them. One of the greatest treasures of Orthodoxy is also one of its greatest pitfall and that is our Tradition of worship. Our worship experience is so beautiful and so complete that many people think that worship is the only needed experience of the faith. Worship, specifically the Eucharist, is the central act of Orthodoxy, it is the central act for how we practice our faith. There is nothing more important or more profound than partaking of Christ. However, without knowledge of Christ, of Who He is and what He did for us, we can be led to have doubts about worship, the Eucharist and Christ Himself.
This is why, in today’s Scripture verse, we focus on the fact that “Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord.” (Acts 15:35) Most certainly they were praying. Most certainly they were worshipping. Most certainly they were participating and partaking in the Eucharist. But they were also teaching and preaching. And the people around them, in addition to praying and worshipping and receiving the Eucharist, were also learning. They were listening, studying, allowing themselves to be inspired and learning.
The learning element in the Church is critical, and often either overlooked of done incorrectly. How can learning be done incorrectly? Well, when I was in college, I often learned “for the test” which isn’t learning and it’s certainly not applying. It was acquiring of knowledge in order to pass a test. In our churches, learning is often boiled down to a bunch of trivial facts—there are four evangelists, six required icons on the icon screen and every censer has four chains and twelve bells. While this knowledge may enhance our worship experience (or it may not), this knowledge in and of itself is not going to help us know Christ. Knowing Christ comes from spending time with Him in prayer. And this is preceded by someone teaching us how to pray, and from us being open and willing to learn about prayer.
We all have a role to play as both student (disciple) and apostle (teacher), which is essentially what our study is all about. A worshipper expresses what he or she has learned through study and through knowing Christ. A worshipper with no knowledge becomes a bystander and not much more. Imagine if you had never experienced Orthodox worship. The first time you came into a church you’d be unable to really worship, because you’d be soaking it all in. After learning something about worship, one can truly worship. Unfortunately, many have never learned how to worship and so coming to church for many is to be a bystander, to watch the proceedings. And when one gets bored of “watching” because they are not “doing” anything, they drop out of worship.
For one who loves to worship but has no other knowledge of the faith, the faith becomes a series of rituals, which then end up becoming a set of superstitions. We become obsessed with getting the rituals done accurately but worship never goes deeper. Paul and Barnabas, and by extension, the churches of today, should be seeking to teach and preach, in order to encourage and empower people, to arm them with knowledge that will give them a desire to acquire even more knowledge and also give them knowledge to share with others, so that the body of the church is continuously being built up.
To Thee, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in Thee I trust, let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Yea, let none that wait for Thee be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Make me to know Thy ways, O Lord; teach me Thy paths. Lead me in Thy truth, and teach me; for Thou art the God of my salvation; for Thee I wait all the day long. Be mindful of Thy mercy, O Lord, and of Thy steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, or my transgressions; according to Thy steadfast love remember me, for Thy goodness’ sake O Lord! Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep His covenant and His testimonies. .For Thy name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great. Who is the man that fears the Lord? Him will He instruct in the way that he should choose. He himself shall abide in prosperity and his children shall possess the land. The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He makes known to them His covenant. My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for He will pluck my feet out of the net. Turn Thou to me, and be gracious to me; for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distresses. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me. Oh guard my life, and deliver me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in Thee. May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for Thee. Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles. Psalm 25
Learning and worship go hand in hand when we are trying to grow in our faith as well as trying to spread it to others!
Beginning with the reflection tomorrow, we will be taking a short hiatus from this series to spend some time reflection on the feast of the Nativity. The reflections on Saturdays and Sundays will continue to be devoted to the Scriptures of each Sunday. The reflections on upcoming feastdays will continue to be about them. And the reflections on all other days between now and December 25 will focus on the Feast of the Nativity. The “Commissioned to Be Apostles Series” will resume on January 8
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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