The Confident Life of a Disciple: Believing and Belonging—Part Eight

The Confident Life of a Disciple: Believing and Belonging—Part Eight

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Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.

ENGAGED: The Call to Be Disciples

Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  Matthew 28:19-20

I Believe in One God

When Jesus had spoken these words, He lifted up His eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son that the Son may glorify Thee, since Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom Thou hast given Him.  And this is eternal life, that they know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou has sent. . .” 

“Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, my be with Me where I am, to behold My glory which Thou hast given Me in Thy love for Me before the foundation of the world.”  John 17: 1-3, 24

Good morning Prayer Team!

I believe in one God, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

For the majority of the first three centuries of Christianity, the Church was a persecuted Church, which had to live in catacombs and sewers and stay out of sight.  When a Christian was found, often they were tortured and martyred, rather publicly.  Rather than turning people off to Christianity, these public spectacles actually encouraged people to seek out the Christian faith.  They reasoned, it this faith was worth dying for, maybe it was something worth pursuing.  Ironically, the church grew at a rate of almost forty percent per decade during the years it was persecuted, the highest rate of growth for any period of church history. 

There was one negative to the Church being underground.  Without communication between church communities, heresies crept into the theology of the church.  Because there were no body of information which standardized what everyone believed. The Emperor Constantine, with the Edict of Milan in 313, made the Christian Church the legal church of the Roman Empire.  With the church finally emerging after centuries of persecution, there were heresies everywhere as churches finally started exchanging what they believed. 

In the year 325 Constantine convened the first Ecumenical Council in Nicaea.  Three hundred eighteen bishops came together from all the parts of the Christian world.  The Council lasted several months and was credited with accomplishing three things.  The date of Pascha was fixed.  The canon of Scripture was also set—fragments of “scriptures” were brought from all over.  Some of the sources were codified as sacred Scripture.  For instance many of the Epistles of St. Paul made the canon of Scripture.  But other Epistles from Barnabas did not.  The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John made it.  But there are other Gospels by people like Mary Magdalene and Thomas the Apostle that did not make it. 

The other significant accomplishment of the First Ecumenical Council was to draft what we now know as the Nicaean Creed.  The final edits to this were made at the Second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in 381, but the first draft of this important statement of faith was composed at Nicaea in 325. 

The Creed is divided into six part—first a statement of “I believe.”  Next there is a section about God the Father, then one on God the Son and then one on God the Holy Spirit.  Finally there are two small sections on the Church and on the world to come.

The first statement affirms belief in “One God, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.”  Why is this important?  Because it sets in order the fact that One greater than us made us.  We are not the center of the universe. He is!  It also affirms that God made everything, visible and invisible.  The only thing uncreated is God Himself.  And only God can make something from nothing.  Finally, this opening statement reveals the various names given to the “first person” of God—God, Father, Almighty and Creator. 

The mystery of the Holy Trinity is indeed a profound one.  We believe in God, in three persons.  Each is completely one with the others, yet each is distinct in role.  Imagine holding three candles close together.  Three wicks come up from the candles.  When all three wicks are lit, we see one flame.  Yet the one flame can be kept together while the bottoms of the three candles are separated.  Hence we get one God in three persons. 

We give thanks to Thee, O God; we give thanks; we call on Thy name and recount Thy wondrous deeds.  At the set time which I appoint I will judge with equity.  When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars.  I say to the boastful, “Do not boast,” and to the wicked “Do not lift up your horn; do not lift up your horn on high, or speak with insolent neck.”  For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up; but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.  For in the hand of the Lord there is  cup, with foaming wine, well mixed; and He will pour a draught from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.  But I will rejoice forever, I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.  All the horns of the wicked He will cut off, but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.  Psalm 75

The Creed begins by affirming the first person of the Trinity, God the Father.

 

+Fr. Stavros

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Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

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.”