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
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still water; He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. Thou prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
We’ve intentionally spent six days on Psalm 23, as it is one of the most meaningful and deep of the 150 Psalms. Today we conclude this Psalm by reflecting on life today and life eternal. God’s goodness and mercy are two things that help lead us through this life, as we prepare to dwell in His house for everlasting life.
In the world today, there is a juxtaposition of good and evil. Good is the absence of evil. This Psalm tells us that God’s goodness will go with us all the days of our lives, especially in the presence of evil.
Mercy is when one is spared something they deserve. For instance, a judge in a court might be merciful to a criminal by giving him a shorter sentence than he deserves.
God’s goodness goes with us each day, helping us to steer away from evil. And God’s mercy is put upon us in the times when we still collide with evil. God loves us so much, and even loves us when we fail to be good and fall to evil. He desires that we repent. He does not want us to habitually commit sins. But when we turn to him with a contrite heart, His mercy overlooks our faults and sets us back on a path to goodness.
Forever includes right now as well. Forever is not just an infinite future but the present reality. For instance, if a couple gets married and says to each other “I will love you forever,” that includes not only the future but the present.
Thus, when we read “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” this not only includes everlasting life, but in includes life right now. A person’s dwelling is wherever they are living at a given moment in time. At this moment, my dwelling place is my office at church. No, I will not sleep here tonight, but I am dwelling here for the moment. This is the place that is offering me protection from the heat and sun at the moment. A dwelling is not only where we sleep and relax, but wherever we happen to be at a particular moment.
The ”house of the Lord” is wherever we are with God. We know that His house isn’t just our church, because if it was, none of us could be with God in this time of pandemic. The Church building is significant because this is the sacred space where we commune with God. We don’t receive Holy Communion in our homes, at our places of business, on the beach, etc. The church building is set up as a sacred place for this one activity.
We “dwell” with the Lord anytime we unite ourselves with the Lord. We “dwell” with the Lord when we are praying, when we are reading Scripture, when we are helping others in His name. We dwell with the Lord when we come to church and receive Him in Holy Communion. We can dwell with the Lord at all times and at all places. And at the end of our earthly lives, those who He judges worthy will dwell with Him in heaven forever.
God’s extending of His goodness and mercy allow us dwell with Him today. We won’t need goodness or mercy in heaven. Those are things that we need in earth in an environment where evil tempts and mercy forgives. His goodness and mercy allow us to live with God today, and will lead us to dwell with Him forever.
Prayer of Protection from the Coronavirus
(Prayer by Grace Bishop Alexis (Trader) of Bethesda)
O God Almighty, Lord of heaven and earth, and of all creation visible and invisible, in Your ineffable goodness, look down upon Your people gathered in Your name. Be our helper and defender in this day of affliction. You know our weakness. You hear our cry in repentance and contrition of heart. O Lord who loves mankind deliver us from the impending threat of the corona virus. Send Your Angel to watch over us and protect us. Grant health and recovery to those suffering from this virus. Guide the hands of physicians, and preserve those who are healthy that we may continue to serve You in peace and glorify Your most honorable and majestic Name, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Seek what is good, ask for mercy with a repentant heart when you fall for what is evil, and dwell with the Lord in prayer today!
The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! There you may find a database for past prayer team messages as well as books by Fr. Stavros and other information about his work and St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
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.