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.
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
God Still Desires Us
For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
Good morning Prayer Team!
This morning’s reflection begins with a piece of great news—God still desires us!
The word for “Gospel” in Greek is “Evangelion” which means “the good news.” The good news is that despite our fallen nature, despite our decision to break our union with God, He still wants us, and through the Incarnation, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, mankind can be restored to his former relationship with God.
Now there is a “caveat” in John 3:16, a word on which this whole passage tilts, which is the word “believes.” Jesus doesn’t say in John 3:16 that “whoever merely exists for a little while” is going to have eternal life. He says that we have to believe. Faith is what we believe, but faith is also an active word. A life of faith calls us to a life of action. We are expected to DO something with our faith. It is not enough to just believe. We are expected to obey the commandments of God. We are expected to develop a relationship with Christ. We are expected to love (and serve) others. And we are expected to spread the good news with others, both in sharing it in word and also by modeling Christian behavior.
You might say that there is a gap between us and God, the gap created by the Fall. An angel guards the door to Paradise. God is inside. We are on the outside. So, there is a gap. The gap is “bridged” through the salvific work of Jesus Christ, who came to live among us, and who shows us the way back to the Father.
Going with the bridge analogy, let’s say that the bridge spans a body of water. We are on one side, God/Paradise is on the other. The gap between the two sides represents the Fall. Christ is the bridge that shows us the way to God and back to Paradise. There is a critical thing here, which is that WE, you and I individually have to make our way over the bridge to Paradise. Christ provides the bridge. He makes the way back possible. But He doesn’t force us to cross the bridge. Each person must make his or her own journey. We are to encourage one another. The church encourages us. And the church teaches us how to walk. It doesn’t walk for us.
Imagine the world after the Fall and before the Incarnation. It was like people on one shore looking across an expanse of water toward a distance shore which is Paradise. As Jesus tells us in Luke 16:26, in describing the distance between the rich man and Lazarus, “a great chasm has been fixed, on order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.” Indeed there is a chasm between us and God. But Jesus is the bridge that spans the chasm. The church teaches us how to walk. We encourage one another to walk with confidence. And because we have Christ, we don’t have to cross the “bridge” to experience the delights of Paradise. Once we begin to make our way, we experience them in this life, as we make the journey.
Preserve me, O God, for in Thee I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “Thou art my Lord; I have no good apart from Thee.” As for the saints in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight. Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows, their libations of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips. The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; Thou holdest my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritable. I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also dwells secure. For Thou dost not give me up to Sheol, or let Thy godly one see the Pit. Thou doest show me the path of life; in Thy presence there is fullness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore. Psalm 16
Take steps on the “bridge” every day. This does two things—It brings us closer to Paradise. And each step allows us to experience some of the joys of Paradise. There is joy and reward not only in the destination but in the journey!
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: Justin R. Setzer
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