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
In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. . .And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory. John 1:1-3; 14
Good morning Prayer Team!
We are all familiar with the story of the Creation of the world. God created the world out of love—that was His motivation. The Holy Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—were all involved in the creation. In Genesis 1:1-3, we read:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the waters. And God said “Let there be light.”
“God” refers to God the Father. The “Spirit of God” refers to the Holy Spirit. “God said” refers to the voice of the Son of God, whom we know as Jesus Christ, who is also referred to as the “Word”, the “Logos,” and several other titles. The “Word” of God, you might say, is the mouthpiece of God. With the exception of two times where God the Father speaks in the New Testament to endorse His Son (at the Baptism and at the Transgifuration), the words of God are coming through the voice of the Word of God, or the Logos, the person we commonly know as Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
John begins his Gospel by affirming the Jesus Christ, the Word of God, was present in the creation of the world. He exists from eternity. He is uncreated. There was never a time when there was no “Son of God,” or “Word of God. In John 1:14, John describes the Incarnation (the Nativity) in a few words. There is no mention of angels or shepherds or magi, only that the Word (the Son of God from the beginning of the world) became flesh, became a human being, and came to dwell among us.
We believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, incarnate in the flesh, who came to live in the world in order for us to be saved from our sins. What sins? Going back to the creation of the world, God made the world perfect. He also made man perfect. Because God is perfect goodness, He nothing that He could make was less than good, less than perfect. In God’s love, He gave human beings the freedom to live in communion with Him, and the freedom to reject Him. Tempted by the devil, who told them a lie, to eat the forbidden fruit “and you will be like God,” (Genesis 3:5) the human beings fell away from God through the sin of disobedience, which was preceded by the sins of ego, temptation and ingratitude. This is called the “fall”, and the fall opened the Pandora’s box for hunger, sickness and ultimately death. We who live in the world today are not guilty of “original sin.” But we are victims to the sinful environment that was created with the first sin.
Hope is not lost, however. God is the God of mercy and compassion, and He gave the human race a chance for redemption, a chance to be restored to the original Paradise enjoyed by Adam and Eve before the fall. Jesus provides the way for us to get there. Choosing to live a life in Christ helps us in attaining salvation. The church exists as the means for helping Christian pilgrims attain salvation, as well as a place that actively seeks to spread the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The attaining of salvation is ultimately through the grace of God, and salvation is bestowed at the last judgment (Matthew 25:31-46). However, each of us will prepare for our judgment by how we lives our lives—do we honor Christ? Do we accept His words as truth? Do we share them with others? Our judgment will be based in large part on these questions.
We follow Christ. And where He is leading us, if we choose to follow Him? He is leading us to heaven, to eternal life, to Paradise, to the original state that Adam and Eve enjoyed with God—perfect communion, perfect fellowship, perfect life. Jesus sums up the journey of salvation in one verse of Scripture, John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
We follow Christ. He will lead us to everlasting life. We are called to follow. We are called to call others to follow.
And with this we end the introduction to our unit on being engaged. Tomorrow (and for several days following) we will reflect on the person of Jesus Christ, as told by Him, through specific verses of Scripture, which have Jesus using the words “I am.”
Almighty Lord, thank You for the many gifts which You so generously give to me. Thank You for the gift of salvation. Thank You for the gift of Christ, and His sacrifice on the cross which opened the path for me to find salvation. Help me to walk this path in joy each and every day of my life. May I not only make progress for myself, but may I encourage others in their walks as well. Amen.
Follow Christ faithfully, today and every 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: Beliefnet
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