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
We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
Scriptures of the Triodion
Feast of the Annunciation
Let me hear in the morning of Thy steadfast love, for in Thee I put my trust. Teach me the way I should go, for to Thee I lift up my soul. Psalm 143:8
Good morning Prayer Team!
Before you read today’s message, slowly reread the verse from Psalm 143 again. And sit with it for a minute. To put our trust in God, to let Him guide the way we should go, to lift up our souls to Him, these are three beautiful, powerful and difficult things to do.
I remember a scene from a movie (though I can’t recall the movie) of the Virgin Mary opening the shutters of the home in which she lived one morning. She pokes her head out into the morning sunlight. It’s just another day. Perhaps she has plans for the day, maybe with friends, or with Joseph her betrothed. Maybe she is going to stay near home and wash clothes or cook. But God has other plans. She turns from the window and in her room is the Archangel Gabriel, announcing to her that God has chosen her to bear His Son. And by now, we know how the story goes. She offers the greatest YES and accepts to bear our Savior in her womb. She accepts the prospect of scorn, loss of reputation, loss of her betrothed, and without fully knowing the outcome, she accepts to raise a Son who will one day die a horrific death. And yet she agrees. Because for her, it is God first. His glory comes first. Trusting in Him goes above all else. She let’s go and let’s God lead. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t have feelings, that she isn’t scared or even petrified. That doesn’t mean she has to lose all of her friends or her hobbies. That doesn’t mean she can’t greet each day in joy, and when the day is done, that she can’t relax. What it means is that she lets God lead, she trusts and follows, and she gives God the glory in all things.
There are many diverse people who are on the Prayer Team and read these messages. I’m sure some have lives that are zipping along with happiness. I know that some of you have some real struggles, some are very seriously ill, some have marital problems, or are out of work. These are all real issues. And in no way am I suggesting that you just sit at home today, like a puppet, and let God pull the strings, as if you have no part in your own life.
What I do know from my own struggles is that God has a plan, even when we can’t fully understand it. We know that God’s plan for all of us is for us to find salvation in His heavenly kingdom.
Let me put this in a way that I hope makes it easier to understand. My wife and I have one son. Our “plan” for him is to be successful. Our hope is that he will be able to live independently with a family of his own one day, so that when we are gone, that he will be able to take care of himself. That is our plan. That plan may or may not involve going to college. That plan may or may not have him living near us. How that he achieves our “plan” will be affected in large part by him. But it will also be affected by us. We will provide him opportunities to put him in the best place to succeed. Ultimately, he will have to trust some of our ideas (like doing homework faithfully, or joining the sports team he’d rather not join, or eating vegetables) so that he can succeed in building a successful life for himself.
God, I believe, works in the same way. He doesn’t have a plan for each of us to be a millionaire. His plan is for us to attain salvation. He will give us chances and guidance through many various means. The choice to follow, however, is ultimately ours.
Just like the Virgin Mary greeted the morning one day and was greeted by an angel announcing God’s plan for her, we too are greeted by opportunities to glorify God each day. These opportunities may come through unexpected chances to help and encourage others. They may come in opportunities to learn. But there are opportunities to glorify God in some small (and sometimes large) way each day. Do we run to them? Do we resist them? Are we too preoccupied to see them?
Letting go and letting God doesn’t mean doing nothing and seeing what God does. It means leaving room in our lives to work in concert with opportunities that He brings into them. Perhaps today is the day that you’ll be the Good Samaritan. Or the day you’ll help bring healing to a paralyzed friend. If you are sick or sad or down on your luck, there will still be opportunities to glorify God in some way today.
Mary’s “Yes” didn’t make her life easy. In fact, it made her life pretty hard. But it assured her of eternal life. Saying YES to God today, glorifying Him in your circumstances, be they easy or very difficult, won’t necessarily make your life easy today. But it will put you one step closer to His Kingdom, and therefore put us one step closer to realizing His plan for our salvation.
Make me understand the way of Thy precepts, and I will meditate on Thy wondrous works.
My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to Thy word!
Put false ways far from me; and graciously teach me Thy law!
I have chosen the way of faithfulness, I set Thy ordinances before me.
I cleave to Thy testimonies, O Lord; let me not be put to shame!
I will run in the way of Thy commandments when Thou enlarges my understanding!
Teach me, O Lord, the way of Thy statutes; and I will keep it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep Thy law and observe it with my whole heart.
Lear me in the path of Thy commandment, for I delight in it.
Psalm 119: 27-35
Let go and let God—trust Him, let Him guide you, lift up your soul to Him!
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: Guideposts
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