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 Five
The Temple is a Good Place to Wait
Then He led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands He blessed them. While He blessed them, He parted from them, and was carried up into heaven. And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God. Luke 24: 50-53
Good morning Prayer Team!
The story of the Apostles is our story as well. We have each been commissioned, just like them. We each have deficiencies, just like them. We each probably feel inadequate to proclaim the message of Christ, just like them.
Jesus told them, however, as we discussed in the previous reflection, that He didn’t expect them to carry out their mission alone. He promised to send them the Holy Spirit. But He told them to wait for this gift.
There was a ten day period between Ascension and Pentecost. The Apostles didn’t know that it would be ten days. And during this period of time, we read in the Gospel of Luke, that they “were continually in the temple blessing God.” (Luke 24:53) They were probably confused, anxious, or at the very least curious, about what was going to happen, what they were going to do, and what God wanted from them. But the Gospel doesn’t use these words to describe the mindset of the Apostles. Rather, St. Luke write that they had “great joy,” (24:52) which then motivated them to be in the temple blessing God.
There are many times in life when we probably feel like the Apostles. We may be unsure of what we believe, or what God wants us to do with our lives. We may be sure of what we are doing but unsure of how to negotiate a particular challenge. We may question certain things. We may have empty spaces in our minds or our hearts. We may find ourselves confused, anxious or curious about what we have done, what we are doing or what we will do.
In these times, we should do exactly what the Apostles did—get to the temple and bless God. Because our strength, especially in our times of confusion, is our Lord. And our refuge in times when we feel challenged, should be our church community.
The most important things that happen in a church community are worship and spiritual support. The most important thing in the community is the worship of God. And the second most important thing is that the worship takes place in a corporate context. The Apostles may be have been anxious or confused, but they were not isolated in their feelings. They were together in the temple, blessing God and supporting one another.
We will be speaking in greater detail about what a church is and what a church does, and we will find very quickly that the church building, while certainly very important in the life of the community, is not the center of the community. The center is Christ. And the focus is on the community moving together towards the center, Christ.
So, when we feel like the Apostles did after the Ascension, when we are waiting for some sign for what direction we should go in next, when we are waiting for an empty space to be filled, the best place to wait is in the temple, the best thing to do is bless God, and one critical piece of the puzzle is to wait in the context of community, to be around others who are blessing God, and who can encourage us as well.
The Angels beholding the Master’s ascension were filled with great astonishment at how with glory He was lifted from the earth into heaven. To the sacred band of holy disciples did the risen Lord command: Tarry in Jerusalem, and I shall send you another Comforter, who shares the Father’s throne and is of equal power with Me whom you see now into heaven taken up, being carried aloft on a cloud of light. (9th Ode, Matins of Ascension, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
In good times or in challenging ones, go to worship often!
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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