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
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
Jesus said to her, “I Am the Resurrection and the life; he who believe in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this? She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, He who is coming into the world.” John 11:25-27
Part of this study was a unit on baptism. This is the personal foundation to every Christian life. When a house gets built, it has a foundation. If a construction company prepared ten foundations, other than size, they’d all look the same—they are all white concrete with utilities protruding through them. On top of the foundation each building will look different—different color, different size, different purpose. But the foundation of buildings, other than size, is virtually the same.
It is the same thing with our foundation as Christians. We are all baptized in the same way. We are all given the same commission, the Great Commission read over each of us at our baptisms.
Our sponsors, who answered on our behalf, were asked the same questions:
~Do you renounce Satan?
~Do you unite yourself to Christ?
~Do you believe in Christ?
Most of us were baptized as infants and we do not remember when these questions were asked and answered on our behalf. Unfortunately, there is no baptism renewal ceremony in the church. We are not ever required to answer these questions out loud again. However, these questions are the three most important questions we’ll ever be asked, so it is important that we meditate on them frequently.
Do you renounce Satan, and all his works, and all his worship, and all his angels and all his pride?
This means will we renounce evil and temptation today. Will we renounce pride? Will we lead with humility? This is something to affirm daily—I will be obedient to the commandments, I will renounce temptations, and I will lead with humility. Imagine if we each said this sentence multiple times a day, before conversations, before meetings, before starting arguments.
Do you unite yourself to Christ?
Unity means oneness. If we jump into a swimming pool, we are one with the water. There is no separating us from the water if we are in the pool. The water is all over us, we are not separate from it. If we are united with Christ, there is no separation from Him. We can’t love Christ while hating someone else. We cannot love Christ while gossiping about someone, or stealing from them or discouraging them. Think of Christianity like jumping into the pool—we put Christ on all over us, we become one with Him. Of course, this analogy works another way. There are people who stick their toes in the pool, keeping most of themselves out, who will say “I’m in the pool” when in reality, most of them is not. Uniting ourselves to Christ is like diving into the pool, so that all of us is immersed with Christ. How much of you is united with Christ—your whole self? Your toes? Your whole life? Or two hours on Sunday? Uniting ourselves to Christ means going “all-in”.
Do you believe in Christ?
The answer given at baptism is “I believe in Him as King and as God.” This is also a significant question that we need to reflect on often. First of all, there is the question of do we believe? If we believe in Christ, then we believe that this life is all about working our way to His Kingdom. That is the overall purpose and goal. Thus the goal each day is not making money or good grades—these can be goals. But the overall goal is to serve Him by serving others.
If we believe in Him as King and as God, that means He is in the driver’s seat of our life—He is not the co-pilot, the spare tire or the insurance policy. He is at the wheel.
If we truly believe, then we lead with faith and not skepticism. This includes not only our relationship with Him but with one another. We meet one another with optimism rather than pessimism. We meet one another in good faith, rather than skepticism.
Renewing our baptismal pledge should be something we think of daily. Why? There are two very important reasons. First, it will guide our activities each day. Second, as the years of our lives fly by and we come closer to the end of them, rather than fearing death, we can approach death with anticipation, that the thing we’ve been believing and living our entire lives is about to come true.
I want to die exhausted, having given every effort to spread His Word. And I want to die with joy, hopeful in His promise of eternal life.
Every day we begin a new journey in our lives. It is important that these journeys begin with an affirmation of who we are, what we believe, and what we are going to do.
I will sing of loyalty and of justice; to Thee, O Lord, I will sing. I will give heed to the way that is blameless. Oh when will Thou come to me? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is base. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cleave to me. Perverseness of heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil. Him who slanders his neighbor secretly I will destroy. The man of haughty looks and arrogant heart I will not endure. I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me. No man who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no man who utters lies shall continue in my presence. Morning by morning I will destroy all the wicked in the land, cutting off all the evildoers from the city of the Lord. Psalm 101
Here is an affirmation to meditate on frequently:
I will be obedient to the commandments, I will renounce temptations, and I will lead with humility.
I will be all-in on my Christianity.
I will give Christ the wheel.
I will lead with faith, not with skepticism. I will rejoice in the good, while being patient and forgiving with what is not good.
**The dialogue from the baptism service was taken from “”The Sacrament of Holy Baptism of the Orthodox Church” by Fr. Harry Hatzopoulos, 1990.
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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