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 voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, upon many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful, the voice of the Lord is full of majesty…The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever. May the Lord give strength to His people! May the Lord bless His people with peace! Psalm 29: 3-4; 10-11
There are six accounts in the Gospels of Jesus and His Disciples experiencing a storm. In Matthew, Mark and John, there is an occasion when the Disciples are in a boat and Jesus is not with them. There is a storm, the Disciples are frightened, and Jesus comes to them, walking on the water. In the account in the Gospels of Matthew (chapter 14) and Mark (chapter 6), once Jesus gets into the boat, the storm ceases. In John’s account (chapter 6), once Jesus enters the boat, the boat gets to its destination immediately. In these Gospel accounts, it is the presence of Jesus that calms the storm and gets the boat to its destination.
In the Gospels of Matthew (chapter 8), Mark (chapter 4) and Luke (chapter 8), the disciples are on a lake, there is a storm, and Jesus is on board the boat but sleeping. The disciples feel panicked, wake up Jesus and He calms the storm.
Both groups of stories show the power of Jesus to calm a storm. Both stories leave us wondering why Jesus allowed the storm to happen. Why was Jesus not on the boat with the Disciples in one set of stories, leaving them to be thrown around by the sea before appearing, and in the other set of stories, why was He sleeping while they were in turmoil? In the current storm we are in with the coronavirus, some of us wonder “where is Jesus? Is He sleeping? Is He not even in our boat?”
In the Gospel of John, Chapter 9, Jesus encounters a man who was born blind. “And His Disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him.’”
We know that only good things come God, as we read in James 1:17, “Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from Above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or change.” We know from the miracle of the blind man that God’s power can be made manifest even in the worst of circumstances. We also know that God has the power to calm a storm, and also the ability to let people walk on water. Even now, God’s majesty is still present.
Like the Disciples on the boat, we find ourselves in the midst of a storm that doesn’t seem to want to abate any time soon. The storm is not only the covid-19 disease but ALL the collateral damage that seems to be associated with it, from anxiety to anger to mistrust, judgment, financial implications and worry over the future. To be honest, I sometimes feel like the Disciples in the boat when Jesus was sleeping, wanting to wake Him and say “Hey, are you going to let us drown while You are sleeping?”
There are two things that keep me from despair. One of them is faith in God. I’ve lost a lot of faith in the government, the medical community and other people over the past three months. I’ve also gained a lot of faith in people like first responders, grocery store workers and teachers. My faith in God has not wavered. My faith in God’s plan for my life has not wavered. My desire to work towards salvation has not wavered. Like those disciples on the boat, I am concerned about the waves and how they seem to be throwing me around these days. But I also know that the Lord is still in my boat, even if it seems like He’s sleeping. And that gives me comfort.
The other thing that keeps me from despair is staying busy, asking what can I do on a given day to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Maybe my part of the solution today is wearing a mask to the store. Maybe it is quietly praying. Or maybe it’s being vocal in helping someone, or being a good listener, or trying to offer encouragement and sound advice. I am motivated by a desire to give my best today.
Faith is not knowing the outcome and still plodding forward. Faith is the firefighter who runs into the burning building not knowing whether he can get out. Faith is believing that God is the Lord of the many waters, still filled with majesty even when the big waves threaten to destroy us. If anything, my faith is growing with each passing day, as I realize that in this storm, all I really have to combat and survive it with is faith. This is why we must continually pray the words of Psalm 29, for the Lord to give strength to His people and to bless His people with peace. (v. 10-11) Because right now we need strength to survive the storm and peace to calm anxiety.
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.
May the Lord calm us all in the “storms” we face 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.