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.
Now put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator. Colossians 3: 8-10
Good morning Prayer Team!
A little “housekeeping” before today’s reflection. I’m going to take a short break from the series on “Called to Be Disciples” to write on a specific topic today. The Feasts of Sts. Peter and Paul and the Holy Apostles are being celebrated next week—June 29 and June 30. Since we have been studying “Discipleship” all year, I thought I would dedicate their week to the Scriptures of their days. On the weekends, there will be the usual reflection on the Scriptures of Sunday (this weekend will highlight the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, which we celebrate on Sunday, June 24). And on Monday, July 2, we will resume the series on “Called to Be Disciples” with a unit on the true meaning of what it means to be a steward of our talents.
There are certain things that cannot coexist. For instance, it can’t be light and dark at the same time. One cannot be asleep and awake at the same time. Where there is love, there can’t be fear, for the Bible tells us that “perfect love casts out fear.” (I John 4:18) And there are many other examples of things that cannot exist together—hot and cold, busy and idle, sitting and standing, etc.
The other day, I was asked my opinion on why the world is seems so broken. There are many reasons—many books have been written and commentaries have been authored giving various opinions as to the cause of the brokenness of the world. In sharing my opinion, I said that there is a conflict between anger and cooperation and that I believe anger is winning.
The highest value in the world today is winning. Winning includes everything from attaining supremacy in sports to passing cars aggressively on the highway because we are impatient in traffic. Getting ahead by any means possible leads us to cheat, gossip and slander. When we don’t win, we get angry. We use anger to defeat and punish others. When we feel we don’t have control, we use anger to regain control. We do this by defeating, punishing and bullying.
On the other side, we find cooperation. Cooperation is the desire to work together, for the greatest good of everyone. (That doesn’t mean that everyone gets something good, but rather cooperation leads to the best possible outcome for everyone, and sometimes, for some, that outcome isn’t necessarily great.) Cooperation is about the sum of the whole rather than the importance of one part, or one person. Where there is cooperation, there is a greater sense of teamwork, empathy and compassion. Cooperation focuses on common goals and common goods.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I like winning. Who doesn’t? But I would prefer a team win over an individual win. I would prefer to be on a winning team than being one winning competitor. Cooperating to get a win is as important as the win itself. While I usually focus on an end goal rather than the means to it, when there is an opportunity to work in cooperation, I enjoy the means (the cooperating) sometimes more than the end (the win). Because getting to the win is just as rewarding sometimes.
In a week, I’ll be leaving for summer camp. When people ask me what I like most about summer camp, the first answer is helping people grow in their faith. However, in order for one to grow in faith, there needs to be an environment that encourages spiritual growth. So the second thing I enjoy is creating the environment together with a dedicated group of staff people, many of whom do not know each other, some of whom I have never met going into camp. Working together in a spirit of cooperation allows a group of strangers (staff) to create an environment for another group of strangers (our campers) and helps bring us all to Christ. This journey doesn’t suppress individual talents or diverse thoughts and ideas. Rather each person can use his or her unique talents and gifts in cooperation with others and in doing so, each of us gets closer to the main goal, which is growth in Christ.
There is far too much anger in the world today—It is constantly being said in foul language, and it is constantly being heard in our music. It is seen in our movies. It is expressed in our driving. It is being modeled for us by adults. And it is being tolerated in our children. If we could find a way to reduce anger and increase cooperation, the world could certainly be a much happier place.
Saint Paul reminds us in today’s verses from his Epistle to the Colossians, that we are to put away anger, wrath, malice, slander and foul talk. He also adds that we should not lie to one another. He encourages us to put off this old nature and to put on a new nature, modeled after the image of our Creator. If Christ tells us that the greatest expression of love is to die for one another, well, we’ll never get anywhere near that expression of love if we can’t even learn to cooperate.
So look for points of connection, rather than division, and look for points of cooperation, rather than just being worried about winning. In today’s world, cooperating is not always seen as a good value. I believe the world would be a lot different if it was seen as a good value by more people.
Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will dwell in the land, and enjoy security. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act. He will bring forth your vindication as the light, and your right as the noonday. Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; fret not yourself over him who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger and forsake wrath! Psalm 37: 3-8
Work on cooperation 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.
Photo credit: Niniwa
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