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.
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
Jesus said, “I AM the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of Mine that bears no fruit, He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I AM the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15: 1-5
Good morning Prayer Team!
If you’ve ever had the experience of trimming a tree, you know that immediately after you cut a branch, it looks just as it did before you cut it. It will still look green, beautiful and alive. After many hours or even a few days, the leaves will wither because the branch, separate from the tree, is dead.
In today’s verse, Jesus compares Himself to a vine. He tells us that He is the vine and we are like the branches. Connected to the vine, we have life. Disconnected from the vine, we wither and die. As with the example above, the vine does not wither and die at once, however. This is why some people go through life without Christ and still manage to look good. Just like the branch that is cut from the tree looks good initially, those who are cut off from Christ may not die right away, but eventually they do. Because apart from Him, we can’t make it to everlasting life. We will eventually die, in the sense of being eternally separated from God.
When we abide in God, we are like the branch on the tree. The wind may blow the branch. It may even knock a few leaves off of the branch, but the branch lives and eventually more leaves come from it, because it remains with the vine. Similarly, when we abide in Christ, that doesn’t mean that our lives are shaken at times, or that we don’t lose a few leaves here and there. It means that our leaves grow back, and we survive the storms because we are connected to the vine.
There are times, however, that pruning a branch is a good thing. Sometimes when cutting trees, we intentionally cut branches shorter. We prune them. Pruning doesn’t kill branches or trees. Pruning allows branches to come back even stronger. A branch can be pruned and still be attached to the vine.
Similarly, at some point in our Christian lives, we can all stand a little pruning. We trim off parts of us that are not doing well. This is called repentance. And we come back even stronger in our faith and our focus. Pruning doesn’t cut us off from God. In fact, quite the opposite—it brings us closer to Him.
Jesus reveals the Father as the vinedresser, who prunes the vines. Jesus is the vine. We are the branches. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit unless it abides in the vine, similarly, we cannot bear spiritual fruit (which we are all called to do) unless we abide in Christ. The Fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control—Galatians 5:22-23) cannot grow in us apart from God.
When we abide in Christ, we bear much fruit. When we abide in Christ, we are truly alive, strong, and able to bear the storms of life.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, who abides in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in Whom I trust.” For He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence; He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand; but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your habitation, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent. For He will give His angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hand they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under food. Because he cleaves to ME in love, I will deliver him; I will protect he because he know My name. When he calls to Me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him my salvation. Psalm 91
Abide in God today!
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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