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
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.
For from day to day men kept coming to David to help him, until there was a great army, like an army of God.
I Chronicles 12:22
I once watched a YouTube video about what happens during the first hours of military basic training. On the video I saw, the new recruits get off of a bus and stand in front of a building. A drill instructor stands perpendicular to the building and the recruits face him, with the building on their left. The drill instructor yells at them to get in lines and stand at attention. He tells them that after each instruction he gives, they are to yell “sir, yes, sir!” Then he yells at them “face my building” and the recruits turn and face left and yell “sir, yes, sir!” Then he yells “now face me” and the recruits face right and yell “sir, yes, sir!” This continues for fifteen minutes.
“Face my building!”
“Sir, yes sir!”
“Sir, yes sir!”
On face value, this exercise seems really stupid and demeaning. But it sends a message: “You are in the army now, you will now move as one body, obediently following orders. There will be no room for individual expression until you are molded into an army.” We know that once basic training is over, each soldier will serve a unique role, they won’t all do the same thing. However, in basic training, they will all learn HOW to do the same thing. They will learn how to follow orders, how to march, how to stand at attention, how to handle a weapon, and many other things. Then, regardless of their assignment, they will be able to do the same basic things.
Ideally, God’s army works in the same way. There are some basic things that all Christians should know how to do—we should all know how to pray, how to worship, how to obey the commandments, how to serve others, how to sacrifice and how to respect the authority of both Scripture as well as the Church (hierarchy, clergy). We then can serve in unique ways according to our talents, but we have to know the basics and be willing and ready to do the basics.
In many ways, our Church army looks like an army of misfits, poorly trained in the mission and poorly prepared to execute it. Even worse, many people don’t understand the mission of the church. They may even understand it loosely, like “spread the Word of God.” But it’s so much more than that. The mission is not complicated, but it does take discipline and resolve to spread it.
Every branch of the United States military works because they have order, discipline, and unity of purpose. The “army” must move as one, in order to work. The army doesn’t work if each person does what he or she feels is appropriate, or shows up when he or she wants, or quits when he or she thinks they have done enough. No military force can win a war this way. Military basic training teaches the newly enlisted soldier what behavior is appropriate, that everyone shows up every day, and that missions are followed through to completion, even if everyone is tired.
For God’s army to be successful, we need the same principles. We all have to not only understand the mission, but commit to it. We much move as one. We must be obedient to the tenets of Christianity, whether we totally agree with them or not. We must show up consistently. And there can’t be any quit in us.
We all became part of God’s army when we were baptized. Centuries ago, basic training was the period of time one was a catechumen. One enlisted by becoming a catechumen. By the time baptism occurred, the candidate for baptism had been trained, had understood expectations and was ready to be commissioned. Now it seems that we enlist and are commissioned on the same day, which means we have to go back and receive the training we didn’t get prior to baptism in the years that follow a baptism. We have to receive some basic training as well as carry out our commission. Unfortunately, for many of us, we have to go back to the moment that training began, to learn how to just say “Yes, sir” to God. And while none of us in God’s army are going to be forced to alternate between facing a drill sergeant and facing his building, our army actually will be more successful when people learn how to face God and His Church building with a greater sense of obedience and purpose.
Having now completed this unit on baptism, we are about to turn our attention to a unit about the work of the Church, the work in which we all play a part.
[For this reflection, 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.]
Sovereign Master and Lord our God, Who through the baptismal Font bestows heavenly Illumination to them that are baptized; Who has regenerated this Your servant bestowing upon him (her) forgiveness of his (her) voluntary and involuntary sins; do You lay upon him (her) Your mighty hand, and guard him (her) with the power of Your goodness. Preserve unspotted his (her pledge) of Faith in You. Account him (her) worthy of Life everlasting and Your good favor. For You are our sanctification and to You we give glory, to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
We are all part of God’s army. We have all enlisted, we all need training, and we all have received a unique commission. Train today, and live out your unique commission as well.
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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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