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
What is Your Image of God?
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. I Corinthians 13:11
Good morning Prayer Team!
**Today’s reflection is dedicated to His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios of Boston, a Hierarch, leader, mentor, and friend.
When I was a deacon, I had the great privilege of serving with the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan (Bishop) of Boston. One day after serving the Liturgy, we were sitting at a luncheon after in the church hall, when a woman came up with her two young sons to meet the Metropolitan. His Eminence sat in a black robe, with a black hat on, he had a white beard, and greeted the boys with a big smile. One of the boys said “Hi God!” And the other one said “He isn’t God!” (At this moment, I was panicking, thinking “where is this going?”) “He’s Santa Claus!”
I share this story because through the eyes of a four year old, God looked like a man with a white beard, a black robe and a hearty laugh. A four year old thought God was a benevolent older man like Santa Claus. These little boys didn’t cower in fear that this might be God, but rather were so pleased that perhaps they were meeting God.
As we grow older, our image of God changes. Some think that God is to be feared, He brings fire and brimstone. They see Him as an angry God. For those whose lives have been beset by disappointment, we see God as absent and unloving. For those who have committed egregious wrongs, perhaps they see God being vengeful towards them. Some see God as some kind of compliance officer, making sure that we follow “all the rules.” There are many people who think that God is just a “myth,” that there is no God, because if there was a God there wouldn’t be so much pain and suffering. Some now see God as a politically correct diplomat—everyone gets into heaven, they think, because God would not discriminate against anyone.
One of the images I have of God comes from a painting by Rembrandt. It shows the Father embracing the Prodigal Son on the son’s return home. The painting shows a boy in tattered clothes kneeling before his Father. His life is in shambles. His head is down, it looks like he is crying. But he has made his way back to the Father. The Father has an expression of love and compassion. He puts his arms around his long-lost son. The jealous older son lurks in the background. In fact, studying the painting, it looks as if there is a spotlight on the Father and son. Even though the son has come back in shame, the Father receives him with joy, with light, with hope. Ironically, it is those “who never left” that seem to be in darkness.
Today, we offer several questions for you to reflect on. What is your image of God? Where did that image come from? How has your image of God changed throughout your life? Do you see God as benevolent Father? Friend? Savior? Lord? Compliance officer? Have you had an experience of God where it all changed from Him feeling cold and distant to His being present and a Father?
One more note—someone asked me recently and said “How can we see God as friend?” I thought about how to answer this question in a way that was understandable. And I came up with this: Recently, I had a reunion with the Metropolitan of Boston. I visited Boston and had a chance to greet him in his office. For an hour we spoke like two old friends. However, I still asked his blessing upon entering and leaving, kissed his hand as is our custom, and addressed him always as “Your Eminence.” He is a hierarch of the church. I am not. But I see him also as friend. For me, this personifies the relationship we are supposed to have with the Lord. He is Lord, Savior, Father, Master. And we respect and obey Him as such. However, He is also friend, with whom we can sit and talk, as we would with a good friend.
In Thee, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame! In Thy righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline thy ear to me, and save me! Be Thou to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me, for Thou art my rock and my fortress. Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man. For Thou, O Lord, art my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. Upon Thee I have leaned from my birth; Thou art He who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of thee. I have been as a portent to many; but Thou art my strong refuge. My mouth is filed with Thy praise, and with Thy glory all the ay. Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent. For my enemies speak concerning me, those who watch for my life consult together, and say, “God has forsaken him; pursue and seize him for there is none to deliver him.” O God, be not far from me; O my God make haste to help me! May my accusers be put to shame and consumed; with scorn and disgrace may they be covered who seek my hurt. But I will hope continually, and will praise Thee yet more and more. My mouth will tell of Thy righteous acts, of Thy deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come, I praise Thy righteousness, thine alone. O God, form my youth Thou has taught me, and I still proclaim Thy wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, till I proclaim Thy might to all the generations to come. Thy power and Thy righteousness, O God, reach the high heavens. Thou hast done great things, O God, who is like Thee? Thou who has made me see many sore troubles wilt revive me again; from the depth of the earth Thou wilt bring me up again. Thou wilt increase my honor and comfort me again. I will also praise Thee with the harp for Thy faithfulness, O my god; I will sing praises to Thee with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel. My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to Thee; my soul also, which Thou hast rescued. And my tongue will talk of Thy righteous help all the day long, for they have been put to shame and disgraced who sought to do me hurt. Psalm 71
What is your image of God?
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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