But as for me and my house, we will SERVE the Lord.

Joshua 24:15

As we discussed in yesterday’s reflection, most New Year’s resolutions are not only not kept, but are quickly forgotten.  Ask someone today if they kept their resolution from 12 months ago and most people won’t even remember what that was.  A book called “My One Word” by Mike Ashcroft, which I read years ago, gave an excellent suggestion for how to make a resolution you can actually keep and remember.  He suggested choosing ONE WORD to define your year.  One word is easy to remember.  You can write it on a piece of paper and put it on the refrigerator as a reminder.  You can make it your wallpaper on your phone.  And you can check in with that word every day.  If your word, for example, is “health,” you can make a quick assessment of your health on a daily basis—i.e. did I eat right, sleep enough, exercise, etc.  Someone I know used the word “water” as their word of the year and worked hard to drink more water this year, and succeeded.  My word for 2022 was “today.”  And I wanted to focus on being present on what was happening today, since I had a tendency to be anxious about the future and not be present.  I even developed a mantra for myself which was “get a win today.”  A winning day would include connecting with God, being healthy, being efficient, being kind and laughing at least once.  I would say that this year was a .500 year, I had about the same number of winning and losing days.  I’m still thinking on my word for 2023, with the goal of having both a word and a Bible verse chosen by midnight on December 31.

 

Our parish of St. John has a word for 2023.  It is the word SERVE.  We have an accompanying Bible verse that will help us define our year according to this word SERVE.  The verse is Joshua 24:15: But as for me and my house, we will SERVE the Lord. 

 

Why this word and why this verse?

 

The purpose of the church is to serve the Lord.  We do this in a number of ways.  The church serves the Lord by providing a place for people to worship the Lord.  The more we worship, the more we realize that the Lord is in charge of our lives—He is our Lord, we are His servants, and as servants, we SERVE.  The church also exists to educate people about the Lord.  How can we serve a God we do not know or understand?  The exists to serve it’s people—it provides not only a place of worship and education.  It provides a place of fellowship, where people can feel encouraged by others who are sharing in the same faith journey.  The church also provides a place for people to serve.  Because we not only serve the Lord, we serve other people.  We may not know of places where we can offer volunteer service to others.  The church provides such a place.  Which brings us to the point that the church should be serving in the greater community.  It should be putting charity back into the community.  That might come through donations that support charitable causes.  It might come through volunteering time for a charitable cause (i.e. our church has a community outreach ministry where we feed the hungry but it is not at our church—it is held at a facility where there are more homeless people in need of help).  And where it is appropriate, we should be doing ministries on-site that serve others.  We’ve done this in our parish in the past through ministries like Griefshare, which offers a support group for those who have lost a loved one, whether they are part of our community or not. 

 

As for why the verse, this is a bold statement, and perhaps even a statement of defiance.  The world encourages us to serve ourselves.  Just about every bit of retail marketing is about getting more for ourselves.  We are subconsciously told in advertising that “you’re less of a person if you don’t have/wear our product.”  Social media and peer pressure put stress on us to conform to the latest fads.  At the same time, the world is discouraging Christianity.  In many pockets, people are writing that Christians are what’s wrong with the world and sadly, many people are jumping on that bandwagon.  Youth sports used to respect Sundays mornings as a time for worship and family.  No more.  You almost can’t participate in youth sports unless you are willing to sacrifice your Sunday morning for the team.  Charitable donations are down (thankfully not at St. John where I serve) because there is so much pressure/desire to buy things and the cost of those things is going up that charitable donations take a back seat to personal purchases.  And time for God is being squeezed out—who can spare an extra 15 minutes?  Hardly anyone, which is why personal prayer and Scripture reading are on the decline. 

 

At the time that Joshua made his statement, he was about to die, and the people of Israel were not staying faithful to God, they were worshipping other “gods”.  He made the bold statement, that regardless of what everyone else was doing, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  This is the bold verse that our parish is using for this year, in the hopes that it will be a rallying cry for all of us when it comes to worship, prayer, Scripture reading, serving others, generosity and all the other things that a Christian and a church are supposed to be—as for us and our parish, we are going to serve the Lord.  As for us and our individual Christianity, we will serve the Lord.  Will we be faithful at all times?  Probably not.  Will we give a good effort at all times?  Maybe, maybe not.  But everyone needs something to rally around, and this is our rallying cry, this is where we are going to set the bar.  And then we will see how close to it we can come. 

 

Lord, thank You for the gift of this year that is coming to a close.  As we embark on a new year, help me embark on a new journey of spiritual renewal.  Bring a word and a verse into my mind and heart so that I can focus on that this year, and give me the strength to be bold in the face of a world that in so many ways seeks to take us away from You.  Amen.

 

Choose a word for 2023.  Then let that be your focus for 2023.  Check in with it daily.  Choose a Bible verse to accompany your word.  And may that verse be your rallying cry for 2023.  Have a blessed rest of your 2022 and Happy New Year 2023!

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    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. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros 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


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Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

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. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros 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

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