Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.
Psalm 115 :3-4
Prayer Request: A dear friend and devoted priest, Fr. George Livanos, is battling cancer. He is the priest of All Saints Greek Orthodox Church in Canonsburg, PA, and has served the same community faithfully for the past 32 years. There is great power in prayer, especially when many prayers are lifted up for someone. I would appreciate it if everyone could lift up Fr. George and Pres. Dianthe in your prayers.
What is the first thing you think about each morning? What is the first thing you do each morning? Do you pray before you check your phone?
What do you do in your free time? What do you daydream about?
Who is your hero? Who is your role model? Who do you put on a pedestal?
Most people who know me know that I enjoy cutting grass. I don’t know how I came to like this. I remember liking it from the time I was a young child though. I enjoy doing it so much that I mow five lawns in my neighborhood, and my neighbors love that.
I found recently on YouTube there are a bunch of people who post about lawn care. They have immaculate lawns with stripes on them like you see at a ballpark. They mow their lawns every other day, usually mowing in two different directions. They strip down their lawns, level them, over seed them, top dress them, and grow them back again. In some of these videos, the person lay in the grass and express how much they love their grass. They will caress the grass clippings as if they are fine jewelry. Each YouTuber has an army of followers. It is not unusual for these channels to have tens of thousands of views for each video. I guess there are a lot people who like cutting grass.
Is this the sign of a serious hobby, or an unhealthy obsession?
The answer is found in the answers to those questions posed above. If the lawn (or something else) is the first thing you think about in the morning, what you do in your free time, what you daydream about and what you put on a pedestal, that is more idolatry than hobby. There is nothing wrong with having hobbies. There is, however, something wrong with having idols.
As we read in today’s Scripture verse, we cannot have as our sole objective or obsession, the work of our own hands. Why? Because the hands we have were given to us by God, to glorify Him, and to serve others.
As we read today’s Psalm 115, we are reminded of the story of the golden calf as told in Exodus 32. Moses went up on Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments and the Law from God. The clouds, the thunder, and the awesomeness of the mountain reassured the Israelites that indeed there was a God, that He was looking out for them, and that He was going to communicate with Moses, their leader. It must have been an impressive sight. However, when Moses was gone too long, the people became restless. They somehow forgot about Moses, God, and the majestic mountain where the two were communicating. They demanded a new god. So they collected all of their jewelry, melted it, and made a golden calf, and they worshipped the golden calf. When Moses returned, he was angry, and smashed the tablets of the Ten Commandments. He destroyed the calf, grinding it into dust, and when the people breathed in the dust, they all became sick. Eventually, God renewed the covenant with Moses, gave Him new tablets of the Ten Commandments, the people repented, got better and moved on.
In many ways, it feels like we are reliving this scene. To many people in the world, God seems silent. His message of salvation seems distant. It seems that He will never act in the way we want, it’s taking too long. And now with so many things at our disposal, we are becoming like the Israelites, using our treasures and making idols for ourselves. That might be our homes, our clothes, our hobbies, our sports, or our yards, or something else.
Unfortunately, there are very few people who are obsessive about love, or kindness, or patience, or service. There are very few people who dream about God, or who think about heaven. I know I don’t think about God or Paradise as much as I should. It’s crazy to think how much time I spend thinking about “the work of men’s hands,” (Psalm 115:4) rather than the work of God. Reading Psalm 115 is a wake-up call. Remember, all the Psalms reflect some of our thoughts. And the thoughts of today’s Psalm reflect urgency and appropriateness. They make us think how appropriate are our obsessive thoughts? Do we spend an inappropriate or disproportionate time thinking of things that are fleeting? And do we spend enough time working towards the one thing that is permanent? And having reflected on these questions, hopefully there is an urgency to create an appropriate balance. This is not to say we can’t have joys in our lives, or hobbies, or thing we really enjoy doing. We just can’t forget THE most important things, our faith, and how we are using our talents to serve others and glorify God.
Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Thy name give glory, for the sake of Thy steadfast love and Thy faithfulness! Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hand. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them are like them; so are all who trust in them. O Israel, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield. O house of Aaron, put your trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield. You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield. The Lord has been mindful of us; He will bless us; He will bless the house of Israel; He will bless the house of Aaron; He will bless those who fear the Lord, both small and great. May the Lord give you increase, you and your children! May you be blessed by the Lord, who made heaven and earth! The heavens are the Lord’s heavens, but the earth He has given to the sons of men. The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any that go down into silence. But we will bless the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the Lord! Psalm 115
Make sure faith in God is the priority in your life!
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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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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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