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
Only God Can Fix Us
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
Good morning Prayer Team!
One of my favorite memories from childhood was working puzzles with my family. We once put together an enormous puzzle of the Last Supper. When we finished it, it was so beautiful that we decided to put glue on it, so that it would never come apart. We mounted it and framed it and for many years it sat over our kitchen table. Because the pieces were so small, and put together so well, from a distance, the mounted puzzle looked like a beautiful work of art that we had bought. However, when one got close to the “masterpiece”, one could see that it was actually a few thousand small pieces.
Our human lives in many ways resemble this puzzle I remember from childhood. Each of us is a “masterpiece” of God’s creation. He has created each of us with unique beauty, both inside and outside. However, a close look at each of us reveals cracks and flaws, lots of them. From a distance, we all look good. But when we take a critical look at ourselves, we will each see flaws. I suppose there are some people who are not capable of taking a critical look at themselves. But if we are each honest when we look at ourselves, we will each see our flaws.
We all remember the nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty.” For those who don’t, it goes like this:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
Humpty Dumpty was a personified egg. We all know what happens when we drop an egg. Its shell shatters. It can never be made as it was.
In many ways, we are like Humpty Dumpty. Our fallen nature renders us shattered as well. We have shattered hearts and shattered souls, which lead to shattered dreams and shattered lives. Who can put a shattered egg back together? God can. Who can make the shattered puzzle look like the masterpiece God first created? God can.
Again, going back to our last reflection, it takes some humility to come to a place where we realize that we are shattered. It takes humility to accept that we cannot fix ourselves. It takes faith to believe that God is the one who can fix us.
As we journey through these reflections on “The Cost of Discipleship” I am realizing (and I hope that you are as well) that part of the “cost” of being a disciple is sacrificing our pride. When we live our lives as if we are the center of the universe and master of our lives, we are always going to come up short, we are always going to end up in a shattered mess. When we turn the mess over to God, and work in concert with Him to re-create them in His image, then the shattered messes of our lives (our sins, our doubts, our frustrations, our shortcomings) become the masterpiece (the good and perfect gift) that God intends for them to be.
Today’s Psalm verse reminds us that “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) The verse is true also. It is those who realize their hearts are broken and can only be fixed by God that are the closest to Him. The Psalm continues: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.” (34:19-20) Turning our life over to the Lord doesn’t mean we will escape afflictions. Asking God to fix us doesn’t mean that the world won’t still try to break us, or that we won’t still be tempted to fall. It means that the Lord will work with us, even in our broken state, to not only put us back together, but to keep us safe from the things that threaten to break us. The threats will always be there. Sometimes we might even fall to them. But God will be there and will deliver us from our trials. He will put the egg back together when it is shattered. He will gather the pieces of our brokenness and weave them back into the masterpiece He created them to be. It begins with recognizing that He is the one who can put us together, and then surrendering our life to Him, working with Him so that He can do that.
I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exult His name together! I sought the Lord and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Look to Him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them. O taste and see that the Lord is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in Him! O fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him have no want! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. Come, O sons, listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is there who desires life, and covets many days, that he may enjoy good? Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips form speaking deceit. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursuit it. The eyes of the Lord are towards the righteous, and His ears toward their cry. The face of the Lord is against evildoers, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Evil shall slay the wicked; and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The Lord redeems the life of His servants; none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned. Psalm 34
Stay close to the Lord, especially when you feel broken and shattered!
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: Anchorage Reformed Presbyterian Fellowship
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