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
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
ENGAGED: The Call to Be Disciples
Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20
Let Us Lift Up Our Hearts
Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven. Lamentations 3:41
Good morning Prayer Team!
One of my favorite lines of the Liturgy is just after the Creed, when the priest says “Let us lift up our hearts,” and raises his hands over his head. While there has been some debate whether the people should also lift up their hands at this moment (I’m of the belief that they should and have taught my congregation so), we are all at least familiar with this gesture made by the priest. It is a reminder to surrender.
We all know from the movies, that when the bad guys are caught, they are told to “come out with your hands up.” That is the sign for surrender. They throw down their weapons and raise their hands. This gesture by the priest should keep front and center in our minds that we need to surrender.
There are lots of people who believe that if we are failing at something, that we have to roll up our sleeves and work harder. That might be true for algebra. However, it’s not only hard work that gets us into the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s surrender.
Sadly, there are lots of people in our churches that think that if we bake enough cookies, or donate enough money or be part of enough boards, or work at enough fundraisers that they will get to the Kingdom this way. So, when they feel like their faith is flailing, they just roll up their sleeves to do some more work.
I’ve tried working hard. That doesn’t solve every problem. It certainly doesn’t shoo away every temptation. Work doesn’t ease all doubts either. At some point in every life, we will all stand at a place where we don’t know what to do. We’ll be at some point of confusion, frustration, doubt or sadness. This is likely to happen many times in life actually. In the life of a faithful Christian, it is at these moments especially that we should not to throw up our hands in despair, or throw them down into more work, or throw them in our pockets and sit idly waiting for change. These are the moments when we are supposed to raise them in surrender to God’s will for us in that moment.
Let’s go back to this moment of surrender at the Divine Liturgy. The priest says “Let us lift up our hearts.” And the people respond “We lift them up to the Lord.” In the dialogue of the movies, where the sheriff says “Come out with your hands up,” if the bad guys made a verbal response, it would be “Ugh! We give up.” This is not the dialogue of the Divine Liturgy. When the priest says “Let us lift up our hearts,” the response is a joyous “We lift them up to the Lord.” This means “We surrender them to the Lord.” It also means “We trust the Lord as we lift up our hearts to Him.” It means that we let go of our egos and our agendas and we place them in the hand of the Lord.
As I sit writing this morning, as I’m about to begin my day, as I think of the things I have to do today, I don’t know how many of them will turn out. Will I insist on my own way, or will I surrender my day to the Lord and let Him direct it. In I Corinthians 13:4, St. Paul writes “Love is patient and kind.” If God is love, and love is patient and kind, then in surrendering my day to God, I surrender also impatience and unkindness, for these things do not reflect God’s love. Surrendering the day doesn’t mean sitting and doing nothing, or sitting and waiting for God to make something happen. It means going through the day in a Godly manner, surrendering our desires for ungodly things to behavior that reflect God’s love and mercies. To surrender one’s life to God doesn’t mean we don’t get to make choices, but that God and love leads those choices.
They lift up their voices, they sing for joy; over the majesty of the Lord they shout from the west. Therefore in the east give glory to the Lord; in the coastlands of the sea, to the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise, of glory to the Righteous One. Isaiah 24:14-16
Let us lift up our hands, our hearts and ourselves to God today by surrendering ungodliness and letting God and His love and mercies lead and guide our steps!
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
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.
Photo Credit: Extreme Mind Makeover
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