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
Prayer: Abiding in God’s Love—Part Twenty-Four
And Jesus went on with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” And they told Him, “John the Baptist; and other say Elijah; and others one of the prophets.” And He asked them “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered Him, “You are the Christ.” Mark 8: 27-29
Good morning Prayer Team!
What if Christ posed this question to you: “Who do you (insert your name) say that I am?” I wonder what your answer would be.
It’s interesting that Christ first asked the question “Who do men say that I am?” That’s an easier question, because it is not personal. If we ponder in this question, the answers are very diverse. Some say Christ is the Messiah, our Savior. Some say He is a moral teacher, with good stuff for people of any faith persuasion. Some say that He is a feel good story people lean on when they have nowhere else to go. Some say that He is outdated and irrelevant. Some say that He perpetuates a fraud, that there really is no life after death. Some say He is the source and center of their life, their hope, their purpose and they look forward to being in heaven with Him. Some say that He is confusing or scary. Others say that He is loving and accepting. Some say that Jesus would not condone certain behaviors today. While other say that Jesus is the greatest advocate of inclusiveness of all behaviors. This list could go on and on. There are thousands, if not more, answers to this question.
Jesus, however, turned this question into a very personal one when He asked His Disciples “But who do YOU say that I am?” Indeed the first question in the Gospel passage is as irrelevant today as it was when Jesus asked it. Because the decision to follow Christ is a personal one. Our faith is personal. We can talk about the faith, I can write about our faith, we can encourage one another to grow in faith, but ultimately we can’t cut our personal faith up in pieces and distribute it to other people. Faith is a personal choice, a personal journey, a personal responsibility, for which we will receive personal accountability and personal reward or punishment.
Prayer is a good indicator of our answer to this question. If we only pray when things are going well, then Christ is our good luck charm. If we pray only when things are falling apart, the Christ is our rescuer. If we toss up a prayer here or there, we might call Christ our “good karma” (Orthodox do not believe in karma by the way). If Christ only comes out on holidays, then He is our “family heirloom.” We dust Him off a few times a year when family is around.
Now let’s turn the tables for a moment. What would happen if we asked Christ the question, “Who do YOU (Christ) say that I (insert your name) am?” What would His answers be? He would answer that we are His beloved sons and daughters, His precious children, His joy, His purpose (you might ask why I used that answer—God’s purpose in creating us was to create a loving relationship between God and us). We are not His crutch, or His karma, or His heirloom. We are His children, and beloved children at that. He loves us. He is patient with us. He forgives us. He hopes for the best for us.
So, let’s go back to the question of who do you say that He is? Because if we are these things to Him—beloved children, joy purpose, etc.—shouldn’t we reciprocate these things when it comes to our relationship with Him?
If in prayer we are talking to God, abiding with Him, not just asking from Him, a good thing to offer in prayer is asking His help in addressing this question of identity. We should ask Him to help us better understand Him, to know Him better and more fully. We should ask Him to give us more confidence in Him. And we should ask Him to help us see who we are to Him, to help us to understand that we are His beloved children, and to understand what His will is for us.
For those of us who have children, we eagerly wait for them to tell us how their day went. We hope that they will tell us. Sometimes we have to prompt them and ask them questions. We want them to know that they can confide in us when there are challenges but also to come and share their joys with us as well. For those of us who are parents, our children mean the world to us. And for many children, their parents are their world as well. We say that our children are our joy. Our children (when they are young) see parents as loving, protecting, guiding, and providing. It is in these ways in which God see us—we are His joy. And it is in these ways that we are to see Him—loving, protecting, guiding and providing.
So, back to the original question, “Who do YOU say that He is?” That answer is found largely in our prayer life, in the time we spend abiding in Him.
This God—His way is perfect; the promise of the Lord proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him. For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God? The God who girded me with strength, and made my way safe. . .The Lord lives; and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation. . . For this I will extol Thee, O Lord, among the nations, and sing praises to Thy name. Psalm 18: 30-32, 46, 49
Meditate on this questions—“Who is Christ to YOU?” and “Who are you to Christ?” today!
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: BlessedMart
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