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
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
The Holy Spirit Leads Me to Surrender
For you did not receive the Spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it I the Spirit Himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God. Romans 8: 15-16
Good morning Prayer Team!
I still enjoy building with Legos. Sometimes I build free-style, though my creations are not very noteworthy. And sometimes I build using directions. I am amazed at how the creators of Legos came up with these intricate designs of space ships and cars and airplanes and other things, how a mind could create something with over one thousand pieces in it, and sometimes much more than that. I don’t have a very creative mind when it comes to building. I guess that’s why I’m not an engineer.
There is “creative” thought in us when it comes to our relationship with God. There is something in us that makes us crave God. We all have it. Some of us don’t recognize it yet, or we haven’t set it free yet. This “it” I am speaking about is not an “it” at all, but a “Him,” the Holy Spirit. The Spirit reminds us that Christ was crucified by His choice—because WE matter to Him. This basic truth is embedded in all of our souls. Some of us haven’t discovered it yet. Some of us have discovered it and have repressed or buried it.
We hear in Christian circles (though not Orthodox ones generally) the word “Transformation.” “Transformation” has to do with changing something from one thing to another. Perhaps we can put it better by saying that “Transformation” is a creative process by which something is molded into something else. We all have the ability to be transformed from children of the flesh to children of God. And the leader in this transforming process is the Holy Spirit.
The premise of the Gospel, the Good News we proclaim, is that we can change. We can transform from being a child of the flesh to a child of God. We can transform from being like the fallen Adam to being like the Resurrected Christ. The Holy Spirit leads this process.
We change by surrendering and allowing ourselves to be transformed. What does that mean? I can go to church and sit with a stone cold heart and closed ears and after an hour I will have lost an hour of my life. Or I can go to church with an open heart and just absorb what is being said and allow it to transform me. If we were to take a dried up sponge and tie it all around with heavy string, binding it tightly, and then put the sponge in water, there would be no room for that sponge to expand. Take a normal dried sponge and put it in water, and it will become saturated and expand. The Holy Spirit is what allows us to take off the ropes that bind our hearts so that they can become like sponges and absorb the good news of Christ. It is the Spirit that leads us to the Son, who leads us to the Father.
A legitimate challenge to us as Christians is how to surrender to someone we don’t know. So, in our quest to know Christ, we have built on the idea of the Church that He gave us. The problem is that in many ways, we’ve made the church about rules, burdens, obligations, tasks, and boxes to check. This is why people walk away. They walk away from a rule book. They don’t know Christ as a person, they know Him as an obligation. The Church has to put Christ at the forefront and make its message first and foremost about Him, not about obligations or rules or fundraising or buildings or culture or sports or Greek dancing or anything else. Christ must lead. The other stuff certainly can (and will) be there but not to the exclusion of Christ, and not in competition with Him either.
It is really important for parents to introduce their children to Christ. Children will have to make a choice at some point for faith to be personal to them because it is a choice. Faith is personal. The faith of a child cannot be the faith of his or her parents but his or her own faith. However, without introduction, children won’t have the knowledge in order to make a choice.
Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, Thou art there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost part of the sea, even there Thy hand shall lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Let only darkness cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to Thee, the night is bright as the day; for darkness is as light with Thee. For Thou didst form my inward parts, Thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb. .I praise Thee, for Thou are fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are Thy works! Psalm 139: 7-14
Until I know Christ, I cannot surrender. Once I know Him, it is easier to surrender. The Holy Spirit leads us to know Christ, who leads us to the Father. The Holy Spirit is the key in leading us to surrender and strengthening us when we do. Therefore we must work to set the Spirit free to work in us, to lead us to change, to lead us to Christ!
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.
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