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.
Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River, and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if you be unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your father served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:14-15
Here is a challenge. Ask a person to go for a walk with you for five minutes and to not talk to you. In other words, the two of you commit to walking in silence for five minutes. Can you do it?
Now ask two teenagers to take a walk in silence for five minutes. They cannot do it. I don’t know if the average adult can take a silent walk for five minutes, but I know from the experience of working with teenagers that the average teenager cannot. Because when we do some kind of an activity that requires silence, I always hear voices.
How long can you go without looking at your phone? This is the latest and perhaps greatest distraction that there can be. Many people cannot go for more than a few minutes without getting on their phone. Be it social media or just browsing. When I was a child, back before there were cell phones and google, when I was studying and had a thought, let’s say, “how many M & M’s are in a one pound bag?” I had no way of acting on that information. We didn’t keep M & M’s in the house, I certainly wasn’t about to walk to the store, buy a bag, bring it home, tear it open and count. So the thought would disappear as quickly as it would come. If I had that thought today, most likely I would immediately “google” it on the phone, get my answer, and while at it, probably look at a few more pages before returning to what I’m doing. Sound familiar? Most of us are on the phone more than we think. And because we are on our phones, we are not as productive at work as we could or should be, which means one of three things—1) We’re either doing work more haphazardly in order to get it done around our distractions, 2) We’re having to stay at work longer to get our work done, which takes away from family and leisure time, or 3) we say “forget it”, go home on time, and the work just doesn’t get done.
Perhaps one of the reasons it is becoming more challenging to be a Christian in the world today is because Christianity requires commitment. And if we can’t commit to five minutes without a phone, how can we commit “ourselves and one another and our WHOLE LIFE to Christ our God” as we pray in the Divine Services of the Church.
In the last unit of our study, we talked about the core values of a Church communities. In this unit, we are going to be talking not about our communities at large, but look at how we each approach the Church on an individual level. The Church, as we have discussed is not a building. Because if the Church was a building, most of the time the Church would be dormant, as most of the time our buildings sit empty. The Church is the people, who comprise the Body of Christ. Now we will look at the people as individual units, because it is not a group who commits to Christianity, but individuals who make individual commitments. Those individual commitments, when put together, comprise the Church community.
We begin this unit with a quote from Joshua 24:15: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” The first step in our Christian journey has to be desire. Before one can practice Christianity, or even gain knowledge of Christianity, there has to be desire and there has to be commitment.
I remember years ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning Hockey Team in Tampa did a marketing campaign whose slogan was “All In.” Around town, there were signs that said “Tampa Bay Lightning—All In.” “Come Support our Lightning—They’re All In.” “Tampa Bay Lightning—We’re All In. Are You?”
Can you imagine if the signs had said “Tampa Bay Lightning—Half-In.” Or “Come Support our Lightning—They’re Half In.” Who would go and watch that? We’d say “These guys are a bunch of clowns. If they are only half-in, how and I supposed to be ‘all-in?’”
The marketing campaign was successful because people knew that this organization, beginning with the ownership, was “All-In.” The owner upgraded the stadium, spent money on players and got good coaching. The players responded as did the coaches. The fans began to fill the stadium and now this is a very successful organization, each home game is a sell-out. Because everyone is “All-In.”
In order to be successful in just about anything, there needs to be commitment. This is especially true for Christianity. Christianity is not a “half-in” proposition. Jesus didn’t give “half His life” for us. We aren’t supposed to love God and love our neighbor half the time. Or only love half our neighbors, the half we get along with. Christianity is an “All-in” proposition.
I remember Thy name in the night, O Lord, and keep Thy law. This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept Thy precepts. The Lord is my portion; I promise to keep Thy words. I entreat Thy favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to Thy promise. When I think of Thy ways, I turn my feet to Thy testimonies. Psalm 119: 55-60
As we begin this unit on “Commitment” it is fair to ask, “Are you all-in?” Come back tomorrow and we’ll start talking about the things we are supposed to be committed to.
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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