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
THE ENCOURAGEMENT PROJECT
He appointed the priests to their offices and encouraged them in the service of the house of the Lord. II Chronicles 35:2
Good morning Prayer Team!
The dictionary defines encouragement as “the action of giving someone support, confidence or hope.” The church provides encouragement through worship, prayer, and the sacraments. However, the key ingredient for encouragement is that it can only occur in the context of a “community.” You need at least two people in order for encouragement to happen—the one being encouraged and the encourager.
The church is here to primarily offer encouragement to us as we fulfill our purpose (to glorify God) on the way to our destiny (His awesome judgment seat). It helps us to remember where we came from and helps us to remain focused on the good. When life gets hard and we just want to quit, the church community is supposed to be our “pick me up” so that we can continue.
The sacraments and services of the church help provide encouragement in all of life’s important moments. When a new life comes into the world and we baptize a child, the baptism is done in the context of the community. The community joins together to pray for the life of that child. We have a tradition of a sponsor at a baptism—this person (or people) is supposed to offer spiritual encouragement to both the child and his/her parents through his/her life. Unfortunately, many sponsors do not fulfill that role but that is the intended role of the sponsor.
Weddings also occur in the context of community. Family and friends come together to pray for and encourage the couple who is getting married. A sponsor is also part of the marriage sacrament. The role of the sponsor is to encourage and model good marriage for the couple. That is why “traditionally” (unfortunately we do not always practice this tradition) the sponsor is an older couple that can mentor and encourage the younger couple.
A funeral is not a sacrament, but it marks the end of earthly life and also occurs in the context of community. The purpose of the funeral is actually encouragement. We are encouraged to know that there is a life after death, and we are encouraged to prepare for that life for ourselves. The presence of others provides comfort that we are not alone.
So the next time you attend a baptism, a wedding, a funeral, a memorial service or any other service that marks one of life’s milestones for someone else, go not just to attend but to encourage. And if you have served as a Godparent or as a sponsor at a wedding, stay in touch with your Godchild or Koumbari (people whose wedding you sponsored) and offer regular encouragement to them.
Lord, thank You for the gift of the sacraments of the church. Help me to fulfill my baptismal pledge to continually grow in my faith and to keep my baptismal garment spotless and pure. Inspire me to encourage others to do the same. Open my eyes and my heart to be an encourager at important moments of other people’s lives—whether it is a joy or a sorrow, use me as an encourager. And when I come to one of my important moments, surround me with people who will encourage me as well. Amen.
Encourage (via phone, email, or text) your Godchild, or koumbari today!
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