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
Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me ‘What is His Name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM” And He said “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.” Exodus 3:13-14
Good morning Prayer Team!
We have discussed that the voice of God, the Word, the Logos, is the second person of the Trinity, who would be called “Jesus Christ” after His Incarnation. One of the great misnomers of Christianity occurs at Christmas each year, when we focus on the birth of the baby Jesus, as if to say that before that special night, there was no Jesus, that He was created in that moment. While it is true that before the Incarnation, no one had had the title “Jesus, the Christ,” the Nativity marks His Incarnation in the flesh, not His “creation.” The “voice” of God is heard in the Old Testament, before the Incarnation, and one place we encounter this “voice” of God, this voice of Christ, is in Exodus 3, in the encounter of Moses with the burning bush.
Moses was a Hebrew by birth. The Hebrews were enslaved in Egypt by Pharoah. Pharoah at one point was killing all the Hebrew boys, for he feared they would grow up and overthrow him. Moses was placed in a basket and left by his mother in a river, where he was found and taken in by Pharoah’s daughter and raised as an Egyptian. When Moses grow older, he saw a Hebrew being beaten by the Egyptian and he went and killed the Egyptian. When Pharoah sought to kill Moses, Moses fled to the land of Midian, living as a shepherd, with a wife and a son, a far cry from the charismatic leader that he was to become.
One day, while tending his flock, he encountered a bush that was burning, but was not consumed by the fire. God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, revealing Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Hebrew patriarchs. He told Moses to go tell the Pharoah to let the Hebrews go. Moses then asked God “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” Thus, this is the Divine Name of God—I AM WHO I AM. In Hebrew, this is the word “Yahweh.” In Greek, the words “o on” or in the Greek letters O WN are the translation. In English, the phrase is shortened to “I AM.”
The icons of Christ always depict in the halo over His head, the Greek letters O WN, the name of God. As we will discover, there are several instances in the New Testament where Jesus used the “I AM”, taking the name of God. This is what riled up the Jewish leaders, so that they accused Him of blasphemy, of taking the name of God for His own name.
Going back to the story of the burning bush, just reading this account in the Bible is very powerful. Can you imagine encountering a bush on fire but not being burned? And then a voice comes from the bush and reveals Himself as the Almighty God. God doesn’t always reveal Himself to us in profound ways like this. But as He did with Moses, God calls us to do things that may or may not be easy.
I’ve always been able to relate to the story of Moses. First of all, Moses wasn’t rich, or particularly educated. He wouldn’t have profiled for the one who would lead the entire Hebrew nation. I had a speech impediment growing up and never dreamed I’d have a career in public speaking. Secondly, Moses had some pretty big doubts, and so do I. Third, he was called to lead God’s people, and I believe through my ministry, I have received the same call. And fourth, Moses led the people to the Promised Land but he himself was not allowed to enter. There have been times where I feel like I paved the path and then someone else came into “seal the deal.”
Perhaps we’ve all felt like Moses—We’ve all felt “in over our heads” on things. We’ve all had doubts. We’ve all been called by God to do something. And we’ve probably all had the feeling of not getting to “seal the deal.” Yet, the two Old Testament figures that endorsed Jesus and the Christ at the Transfiguration were Moses and Elijah. And more people remember Moses, who led Israel to the Promised Land, than Joshua, the man who actually “sealed the deal” and let them into the Land of Canaan.
One other theological note on the burning bush: In Orthodoxy theology, we hold that the burning bush prefigures the Virgin Mary, who held Christ within her and was not eviscerated by the experience. It also prefigures our ability to receive Holy Communion, to touch the Divine Christ and not be burned.
We magnify you, o Theotokos and cry out: You are the bush in which without being burned, Moses saw a flame, the fire of divinity. (Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
At some point in our life, God will reveal Himself in some way (probably not as profound as the burning bush). The challenge for us is will we recognize His call, and if we do, will we follow it?
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: BlessedMart
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