Fear Is Not An Excuse

Fear Is Not An Excuse

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We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.

ENGAGED: The Call to Be Disciples

Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  Matthew 28:19-20

Stewardship: Giving to God What Belongs to God—Part Nine

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.  Here you have what is yours.”  But his master answered him, “You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.  So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents.  For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  And cast that worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.”  Matthew 25: 24-30

Good morning Prayer Team!

I mentioned previously that the Parable of the Talents is the guiding scripture for my life and my ministry.  Today’s reflection will be something personal to share with you, in the hopes that it will lead you to put aside fear and do what you know the Lord is calling you to do.

I knew when I was seven years old, the first time I put my foot in the altar, that I was going to be a priest.  People talked about it.  People teased me about it (which I actually always found hurtful, because this call certainly isn’t a joke).  As I grew older, I developed other interests.  I liked music, sports and many academic disciplines.  When it came to thinking about careers, the priesthood was always in the forefront of my mind.  I tried, and I tried hard, to repress my thoughts about the priesthood.  It seemed very daunting.  I grew up in California.  I enjoyed living in California.  I planned to live in California.  The thought of going to Boston to the Seminary for four years seemed very scary.  Even scarier was the prospect of being sent to serve some place that wasn’t California, for instance, being sent to Alaska.

Entering college, my intended major was history.  My intended career path was something in the humanities—like teaching, or counseling, or being a high school administrator.  However, the thought of the priesthood never left my mind and neither did the fears I associated with it.

I never heard this parable of the talents until I read the Bible in college.  This parable doesn’t always come up on the yearly cycle of Sunday Gospel readings.  It only comes in when Pascha is either very early one year or late the next.  When I found it, and read it many times, and started to really understand it, I realized that if a person has been blessed with a talent, God has the expectation that that talent will be used.  After all, God does not bestow a blessing or an ability to us with the expectation that we will bury it.

The man who had been given the one talent wasn’t punished because he only had one talent and not ten.  He was punished because he didn’t use what he had been given.  The Lord told him that his fear was not an excuse for not using what he had been given.

These words started to resonate with me.  One day, I took out a piece of paper and started writing down all the things I was afraid of when it came to the priesthood.  On the list was things like “I am afraid of living in Boston,” and “I’m afraid of living in cold weather.”  “I’m afraid of not living near family” was near the top of the list and “I’m afraid I’ll be assigned to Alaska” made the list too.  “I’m afraid of getting sent to a community and starting a church from scratch” made the list.

Surprisingly the list didn’t have fears about the actual work of the priest.  Part of that is because I didn’t know the actual work of the priest back then.  I didn’t know anything about pastoral care.  If there is anything I fear today, it’s making a mistake when it comes to pastoral care.  People come at me with all kinds of challenges and it’s hard to always come up with the right answers.

As I looked at my list of fears, I started to realize how really some of them sounded.  I even wrote this sentence “But for the fear of _________, I could have been a priest.”  In the blanks were things like “snow.”  I thought about the man who had the one talent and went to his master for reckoning.  And how the master punished that man.  I realized that if I didn’t at least try to use this talent, that God would probably punish me too.

If you know you have a talent, and a calling, you have to fulfill that calling.  If you’ve been given five talents, you have to make ten.  God has called each of us to do something special with our lives, in service to the world.  God has given each of us a unique talent.  God has invested His grace in each of us in a special and unique way.  However, like the master in the parable, God expects each of us to invest what He has first invested in us, to add to what He has given to us.

Fear is not an excuse for not using what God has given to us.  What God expects is effort to develop and use what He has given us.

I thank God for giving me the strength to answer His call for my life.  I pray that I will always be faithful to His call, and that I will increase the talent that has been given to me.

Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and his anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.”  He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision.  Then He will speak to them in His wrath, and terrify them in His fury, saying, “I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.”  I will tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to me, “You are my son, today I have begotten you.  Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.  You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”  Now therefore, O kinds, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, with trembling kiss His feet, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way; for His wrath is quickly kindled.  Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.  Psalm 2

Walk confidently today, using the gifts and talents which God has blessed you with, to the best of your ability.

+Fr. Stavros

 

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Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

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.”