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.
Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
Most of us had the experience of working with clay in art class back in our school days. We received a block of clay and were told to make a pot out of it. First, we started to mold the clay by hand. Then we used a wheel to get it to the kind of pot we wanted to have. Next we put the clay pot in a kiln to “fire it”. And then we painted a design on the finished pot. There was a process of transformation that led a block of clay to become a beautiful pot. That transformation didn’t happen by itself. Staring at the block of clay didn’t transform it. Work transformed the clay into a pot.
In many ways, we are like blocks of clay. In order to become God’s vessels, in order to become apostles, in order to achieve salvation, we need to be molded, like the block of clay, into a beautiful vessel. This takes work. It takes transformation.
In spirituality, there are two parties to transformation. One is us. We have to have a desire to be transformed. We are like the clay. The other party is God, who is like the potter. We must allow ourselves to be transformed. We must desire transformation and we must have the humility and the faith to allow God to transform us.
People’s behavior at times confounds me. There are people in church every Sunday who will tell me that I preached too long. They will even tell me how many minutes the sermon was. There are people who will bypass the church and go straight to the hall. Someone told me recently that she thinks the hall is as sacred as the church building, which perhaps explains why she rarely comes into the church. I’ve always wanted to ask these people “Do you want to be transformed?” “Do you come to church to be transformed?” That’s actually probably a fair question to ask everyone, even myself. Do we want to be transformed? Do we come to church each Sunday seeking transformation? And if we aren’t coming for transformation, what are we coming for? Entertainment? Validation? Socialization?
In speaking about intimacy with God, we need to also include the word transformation. Because intimacy, vulnerability and transformation go hand in hand. In order to be transformed, in the sense of being changed and molded, we have to have the humility and vulnerability to admit that we need some changing, molding and refining. Ideally, we come to church each week with the goal of being refined in one way. Ideally, we listen to each sermon listening for a nugget of how we can change and be transformed in the upcoming week. Ideally, we walk out of church with a solid of idea of one area of life that we’d like to transform this week, one area of our spirit that we want to refine.
We shouldn’t come to church just to check a box, i.e. I gave God His due this week. We shouldn’t come and count the minutes until it’s over. We certainly shouldn’t bypass worship and go straight for the social things. Ideally we should come to church with an open heart, a soft heart, waiting again to hear the Word of God and to have the seed of God again thrown into the soil of our hearts.
The same can be said for prayer and reading of Scripture. The potter’s wheel goes around hundreds and hundreds of times as the potter sits and molds the clay. It doesn’t happen on the first revolution or the hundredth. There may be thousands and thousands of turns, with the potter firmly holding and molding the clay, in order to get the beautiful pot that will be the final product. It takes years and years of prayer and Scripture reading for our hearts, souls and lives to be molded after the image of Christ. We have to sit at the wheel with patience and purposefulness. We have to sit with a steady hand. And we have to also let God participate in the molding process.
The other challenge is that there are multiple wheels that we can sit on, and multiple influences that will try to mold us. Will we be humble enough and vulnerable enough to allow God to transform us? Will we have an intimate relationship with the Lord, so that we allow His hand to be on us and transform us? Ultimately we are the clay. Our hearts and souls are like the clay. The wheel is the Church. There are three potters—God, ourselves and one another. As for the clay, we have to desire to be molded into a vessel. As for the wheel, we cannot be molded into anything unless we sit on the wheel. As for the potters—We have to allow God to mold us. We also have a hand in molding our clay—it is very affected by the things we do, and where we spend our time and give our attention. Others encourage us to model our clay after God, or model it after other influences. Who is modeling you? What people? What influences?
Indeed the Scripture quote from Romans 12:2 says it well, when St. Paul writes: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may provide what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Indeed the goal of life is to have a pot that is modeled according to what is good and acceptable and perfect, a vessel that reflects the love of Christ.
I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exult His name together! I sought the Lord and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Look to Him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them. O taste and see that the Lord is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in Him! O fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him have no want! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. Come, O sons, listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is there who desires life, and covets many days, that he may enjoy good? Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips form speaking deceit. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursuit it. The eyes of the Lord are towards the righteous, and His ears toward their cry. The face of the Lord is against evildoers, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Evil shall slay the wicked; and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The Lord redeems the life of His servants; none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned. Psalm 34
Allow yourself to be molded after Christ’s image, based on humility, vulnerability and discipline of self, guidance from God and encouragement from one another!
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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