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.
And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Exodus 20:1-2
Good morning Prayer Team!
There is a saying that “Without order, there is chaos.” Such was the scene after the Israelites were released from slavery by Pharoah. There were thousands upon thousands of them. They had lived for years as slaves to the Egyptians. Their “moral code” was set for them by their Egyptian taskmasters. Having crossed the Red Sea and left Pharoah and his armies drowned in the sea, the Israelites faced the task of moving themselves to the Land of Canaan but found themselves without a framework in which to do so. So, God gave them the “gift” of “Ten Commandments”, a moral code by which they would conduct themselves.
Later on, these Ten Commandments would evolve into 603 additional “commandments.” These became cumbersome—people couldn’t remember them let alone follow them! Jesus consolidated all of the Commandments into two—love God and love your neighbor.
So then where do the Ten Commandments fit? Are they just a moral code? Are they outdated? And in adhering to these Commandments, do we reduce Christianity to a moral code and ourselves to “box checkers”, checking off the commandments without regard for the Lord who gave them to us?
There is a need for the Ten Commandments today. First, each of the Ten Commandments fits into the two Great Commandments—either loving God or loving our neighbor. Second, the Ten Commandments spell out ten SPECIFIC ways in which we keep these two Great Commandments. And as we will see, when each of the Ten Commandments is examined, there are many more than ten specific ways to love God and love our neighbor.
The goal of the Christian life is to love Christ, and to manifest that love in service to others. The goal of the Christian life is not to check off boxes for good behavior or avoid boxes of bad behavior. It is to love Christ, and to demonstrate Christ-like love in service to others.
However, the benefit of the Ten Commandments is that they give us a concrete framework in which to work, so that we can demonstrate love for God and for our neighbor in very tangible and easy to understand ways.
Looking at today’s Scripture verse from Exodus, which precedes the Ten Commandments, imagine the Lord, announcing to you, “I am the Lord your God.” This would be enough to get me to sit at rapt attention. He is not our friend—He is the Lord our God. And these commandments are not guidelines or suggestions—they are divine mandates!
Most people are familiar with the Ten Commandments, and many people feel that the Ten Commandments are not that hard to follow—after all, I haven’t killed anyone, or have I? Doesn’t gossip kill people? Isn’t failure to exercise going to lead to me dying? As we will learn through a careful study of the Ten Commandments, there are many ways to break the commandments that we’ve probably never even thought of.
How does one go about following the commandments of God? To do so is truly an exercise in self-discipline. And this is where prayer comes in. Because prayer heightens our spiritual senses, so that it becomes easier to be in sync with God, following His Commandments. At summer camp, we set aside 15 minutes a day which we call “Alone with God.” All activity stops, and we sit alone with Him for 15 minutes. This time serves as a time for prayer and reflection, and also thought on ordering the day in a way that honors Him. Today’s thought—set aside time alone with God this morning, spend ten minutes sitting in silence, in prayer and reflection, and see how this orders your day.
Lord our God, thank you for all the gifts You have given me. I am grateful today for the very gift of THIS day. Help me to rejoice and be glad in it. Help me to make the most out of it. Help me to be disciplined in it, so that I not only maximize my time but that I minimize falling to temptation. Amen.
Have a great day!
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: Whispers in the Silence
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