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
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 Three
God is Always with Us
“And lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Matthew 28:20
Good morning Prayer Team!
In the Old Testament, when the first temple was constructed, it was believed that God resided in the tabernacle in the Holy of Holies. Thus, the people thought that they had to go to the temple to worship God, since in their understanding, God was to be found there and only there. Thus, when the temple fell and the people were exiled to Babylon, they were not only saddened because they lost their temple and their city, but they were sorrowful because they thought that God died along with the temple.
This understanding continued even after the people of Israel returned to Jerusalem and restored the temple. In John 4, when Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman at the well, she says to Him, “Our fathers (Samaritans) worshipped on this mountain; and you (the Jews) say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship (because the temple was there). Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship Him. God is spirit; and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4: 20-24)
The Old Covenant tied God to a building. The New Covenant, which is the Body and Blood of Christ, are not tied to a single place. When we set up our church sanctuaries, there is a tabernacle on the Holy Altar Table. The Body and Blood of Christ are placed in the tabernacle, so that at any moment in time, God is present in the temple. However, because we receive Him in the Eucharist, we carry Him inside us at all times, whether we are in church or not, whether it is Sunday or another day of the week.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, He wanted to assure His followers that this wasn’t the end of Him or His message. That what He did would affect all people for all time, and Who He is continues on forever.
Sadly, many of us don’t see Christ as an “I am with you always” proposition. We think He is with us when things are going well and that when things are going well, He is not with us.
But what if we flipped this verse around and said to Jesus “I (meaning you and me) am with YOU (meaning Jesus) always.” Would this be a true statement? Are we with Him always? Or do we just relegate Him to a couple of hours each Sunday, or throw up a prayer when we are in a jam? Is He merely the cross around our necks to the guide to our daily lives?
As we are still laying the foundation for this discussion on being apostles, it is important to note that an apostle does not fit Christ into a compartment. He or she doesn’t center Christ around life, but centers life around Christ. So that we are with Him always, just as He is always with us.
At the Ascension, Christ finished His Great Commission to the Apostles not only commanding them what to do, but that He would be with them as they were doing it. Christ is neither a taskmaster nor a rule book, but our Savior and helper, walking with us at all times and in all places.
When You had fulfilled the dispensation for our sake, and united things on earth with the things in heaven, You were taken up thither in glory, O Christ our God, going not away from any place, but continuing inseparable, and to them that love You crying out, “I am with you, and there is, therefore, none against you.” (Kontakion, Ascension, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Christ is with us always. Are we always with Him?
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.
Photo Credit: City On the Hill
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