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.”
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came for testimony, to bear witness to the Light, that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but came to bear witness to the Light. John 1:6-8 (From the Gospel at the Divine Liturgy on Pascha) Saturday of the 4th Week of Pascha
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Risen!
The Gospel of John doesn’t begin with a story of the Nativity. Rather, it begins with a summary of all that came before the Incarnation, with only one verse about the Incarnation itself (check back in a couple of days for that) so that by the end of chapter one, we are already reading about the ministry of Christ. The Evangelist almost immediately deals with the person of St. John the Baptist. There are two purposes for this. The first is to state that John the Baptist was NOT “the Christ,” as many had thought. The second is to state that John the Baptist was the Forerunner of Christ, that the One who John endorsed was indeed Christ, the Messiah.
The purpose of John the Baptist was not to be the Light, but to bear witness to the Light. And this is a reminder to us that our call is to do the same. Each of us has the Light of Christ in us. And each of us has the ability to witness to that Light.
John the Baptist “came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him.” When I hear the words “testimony” and “witness”, I think about a court trial. “Witnesses” are people who “testify” about something they have seen or something they know related to a court case. So, imagine for a moment that you were called as a “witness” to give “testimony” to Christ, to Christianity, and to how being a Christian affects your life, what would you say?
I remember an amazing conversation that I had with my Dad, shortly before he died. My Dad was a lifelong Christian, he went to church every Sunday, sang in the choir every Sunday, helped to raise two sons who are very involved in the church. As he neared the end of his life, he told me that he had a fear of dying and was there any way that I could help him overcome his fear. I asked him “Do you believe in God?” He said “Yes.” I then asked him “What do you believe about God?” And he answered “I’m not sure.”
This was a “light bulb going off” moment for me, as I realized that there are many people like my Dad who fill the pews of our churches, who even fill them with joy, but when it comes to “testimony” about the Lord, they really don’t know what to say. I’m not sure if this is because we’ve been conditioned not to learn about the Lord or that we’ve been conditioned not to talk about what we’ve learned.
Part of being able to bear witness is to be able to talk about the Lord with others. But the foundation of our witness is to be able to articulate what we believe to ourselves. Because if we don’t know what we believe, then it has no power for us. We are either “mechanical” Christians, who go through the motions of Christianity, or we are frustrated mechanical Christians who lose interest in the motions.
Knowing our faith moves us to “committed Christians” and the committed Christian not only feels the joy of Christianity at all times, but even as he is dying, he is able to share that joy with others.
I am thankful that my Dad was able to articulate the joy of his Christianity before he passed away. Because he had real joy, he was able to pass away with joy in the hope of the Resurrection.
If you were called as a witness to a trial where Christianity was on trial, what would you say in defense of Christianity? And when you are called before God’s awesome judgment seat to give a “defense” of your life, what will say about your Christianity? That Christ was the source and center of your life and your joy? Or that Christianity was confusing and frustrating and that you never really “got it”?
I will always be thankful to God for the beautiful conversation I had with my Dad before he passed away. Because I know that before he passed on, that my Dad truly “got it”—he understood Christ, he understood that he was going to meet the Lord, and he knew that his lifetime of building faith was leading to an eternity of everlasting joy.
Let us arise in the early dawn, and instead of myrrh, offer a hymn to the Master; and we shall see Christ, the Sun of Righteousness dawning life to all. (From the Katavasias of the Paschal Season, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)
Think about your “testimony” today!
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