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.
“Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” John 4:29
Many Samaritans from that city believe in Him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” John 4:39
There is a great temptation to talk about Church or about morality and forget to talk about Christ. I fall into it all the time. There is a temptation to make Christianity all about being “good” or being “moral.” We feel good if we tell our teenagers “don’t smoke or drink or get someone pregnant.” If we stop them from moral failing, we call that success. We’ve already discussed how morality continues to shift downward with each passing year, yet God’s standard of righteousness doesn’t change. However, the message can’t just be morality or even righteousness—it has to be salvation. Righteousness is part of the journey to salvation, but salvation is the goal.
The even greater temptation is to talk about the Church and not about Christ. Let’s think for a moment how we’d invite a friend to church. We’d probably say something like “come to my church, the services are great, the people are friendly and welcoming and they’ve got a great youth program.” Think how we might evaluate our church: “We’re full on Sundays, we’ve got a beautiful church building, an awesome choir, we are growing and the calendar is full of activities.” The name of Christ doesn’t appear in either of these sentences.
Today’s Scripture verses are from an encounter the Jesus had with a Samaritan woman in John 4. Jews and Samaritans were sworn enemies, and men didn’t strike up casual conversations with women back then, which makes the encounter special since it was just not something that happened. After this encounter with Christ, the woman (who was named Photini and has the title “equal to the Apostles” because she was the first to actually invite people to Christ, which is the job of an Apostle) went out and invited people to Christ. She didn’t tell them to come to a meeting, or to a service, she invited people to come to Christ, “a man who told me all that I ever did.” In other words, to come to see someone who had changed her life.
I suppose that this brings about two more questions—do we have a relationship with Christ, or the Church? And has our relationship with Christ changed our life enough that we’d want to invite other people to Christ? These are in fact very difficult questions, because it is possible to have a relationship with the church but not with Christ. It is possible to even be a leader in the Church and not have a relationship with Christ. It’s possible to love the Church and not love Christ. And so it is possible to invite others to Church but not to Christ.
There are plenty of people who work for the church but who don’t work for Christ. And there are plenty of people who are content with a church community to don’t know Christ.
Since most people are overbooked, stretched and overextended, inviting someone to become part of another organization is not something that anyone really needs. Come be part of an awesome organization, or come meet some wonderful people are not hooks that will get my attention. Come be part of something that will change your life, come be part of something that can change our corner of the world, these are very attracting. The church building does not change my life. Christ, the One Whom we worship in the building does. The choir does not change my life, but singing praises to the Lord builds my relationship with Christ. Hanging out with just any group of people is not going to get me to salvation, but hanging around people who are encouraging me in spiritual journey can do that.
Let’s all take a collective look at how often we invoke the name of the Lord—how present the name of Christ is in sermons, on church websites, and in conversations. Is He mentioned at Parish Council meetings or at Parish Assembly meetings? I’ve been told many times that I talk about Christ too much. Or that a Parish Council meeting or a Parish Assembly meeting is not the place to talk about Christ but about the business of the Church. It is true that financial reports are part of every meeting, but the “business” of the Church, it’s very purpose, is to spread the Gospel of Christ, and so time needs to be devoted to that, not just facts and figures. Because it is Christ, through the Church that saves us. But it is Christ, not the church, who saves us.
O give thanks to the Lord, call on His name, make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing praises to Him, tell of all His wonderful works! Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and His strength, seek his presence continually! Remember the wonderful works that He has done, His miracles, and the judgments He uttered, O offspring of Abraham His servant, sons of Jacob, His chosen ones! He is the Lord our God; His judgments are in all the earth. He is mindful of His covenant forever. Psalm 105: 1-8
We need to talk less about the church, and more about Christ!
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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