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
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw Him they worshipped Him, but some doubted. Matthew 28:16-17
One might think at a baptism service, we’d read one of the Gospel accounts of Christ’s baptism. While we refer to the baptism of Christ in the prayers of the service, when it comes time to read the Gospel, we read the last five verses of the Gospel of Matthew, known as the “Great Commission.” Rather than rehashing how we have come to this point of being baptized, the Church focuses us to look forward to our lives as a baptized Christian and what this means. She then commissions us, the same way that the Apostles were commissioned. Before we get to our commission, however, let’s set the scene of how this commission was given.
Forty days have passed since the Resurrection. Jesus has appeared to His now-eleven disciples (Judas, the Betrayer, as we recall, took his own life). He has eaten with them, walked with them, and appeared to them on numerous occasions, showing them without a doubt that He is alive after they had witnessed His death. He directs them to the Mount of Olives, a place He often went to teach them and have fellowship with them.
The Bible tells us in Matthew 28:17, that “when they saw Him they worshipped Him, but some doubted.” This is one of the most comforting verses in the entire Bible. Why? Because all eleven of those Disciples were instrumental in establishing the early Church. All but John would be martyred. All eleven are celebrated as saints. And at least some of those eleven, on this occasion had doubts. All of them were no doubt chosen by Christ. And all of them no doubt were loyal, in terms of leaving their lives and following Him. They didn’t just follow Him on Sundays or when it was convenient. They really had left everything and followed. And still some had nagging doubts. However, this did not inhibit them from still showing up on the mountain that day and following. It didn’t stop them from worshipping Christ, doubts and all.
My Spiritual Father (the priest I offer my confessions to) has often encouraged me by saying “eighty percent of life is just showing up.” When we “show up” things are possible. The disciples showed up to worship, even though some were doubting. And on this particular day, as we will discuss in the next reflection, they were commissioned to go out into all the world and baptize all the nations.
God wants us, doubts and all, to be part of His family, to be part of His army, to be part of His Church. There are days when we will show up to worship or to serve and we will have doubts, ALL of us. There will be no one who can say they’ve never doubted. Doubts will creep into the thoughts of each of us at some point. And what should we do then? Keep showing up. Because God will give each of us a measure of His grace that will help us work through our doubts.
This is one of the reasons why, before we are baptized, the priest prays three exorcisms over us, to address the devil and to admonish him not to tempt us or to cause us doubt. This is also why these prayers can still be offered by us, asking God to banish our doubts, and to strengthen us against the attacks of the devil, that principally come at us by causing us to have doubts.
As we begin to close this unit on baptism, the Church calls us at all times to look forward in our journeys. To show up TODAY, even if we have doubts. To show up TODAY, even if yesterday was not a particularly good day. To show up TODAY, even if it is in repentance for sin. To show up TODAY, even if we are showing up with little confidence. Because TODAY is the day we have, and TODAY is the opportunity to not only worship God but to serve Him in whatever unique way He has blessed us to serve.
So, let us go to the mountain to which Jesus is directing us—for some of us today we’ll go to our classroom, or our office, or our home, our kid’s school. If today is Sunday or a Holy Day, we will go to church. But let us go to whatever mountain He directs us to today, and let us worship and serve Him, even if we are having doubts. Show up at your mountain today.
[For the next several reflections, the customary “prayer” (which is usually a Psalm) is going to be replaced with a prayer from the Baptism service (all translated by Fr. Seraphim Dedes). When you offer this prayer, you can replace the “him (her)” with “I” and make it personal to yourself. In fact, I encourage you to pray the prayer each day in the first person, as a way of recommitting yourself to your baptism.]
O Lord of Sabaoth, the God of Israel, Who heals every sickness and every wound, Look down upon this Your servant (name); search out and try him (her), driving away from him (her) every operation of the devil. Rebuke the unclean spirits and expel them, cleansing the work of Your hands; and, using Your trenchant energy, beat down Satan under his (her) feet, giving him (her) victory over him, and over his unclean spirits; so that, obtaining the mercy that comes from You, he (she) may be accounted worthy of Your Immortal and Heavenly Mysteries, and may send up all glory to You, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen. (Prayer from the Sacrament of Baptism, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Eighty percent of life is just showing up. Show up for Christ today, even if you have doubts. Show up!
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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.
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