WE ARE THE ANSWER TO ONE OF THE APOSTLESí PRAYERS
By: The Right Reverend Father Michael D. Jordan
As difficult as it may seem to you, we are living in a time that the Apostlesí would have considered an answer to their prayers. Today, we have the freedom to publicly stand up for Jesus Christ. We have the right to teach the people about God freely and openly without fear of actually being put to death for it. This boldness that we have today in the world was not always possible. It took courage and boldness to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ when the Apostles were given the task of establishing the Christian Church. It would have been no doubt much easier for them to establish and maintain the Christian Church if they had enjoyed the same freedom we have today.
The Apostles gathered and often prayed in liturgical format for their common needs. We have evidence of this in the Book of Acts, Chapter 4: "24 And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatening: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus."
The Apostles accomplished their goal in spite of their adversities. They achieved victory for us through their persecution and eventually their deaths. Their struggles have made it possible for us to worship God in a freedom that was previously not possible. Imagine what they would have accomplished if they were not so persecuted? Imagine the impact that evangelists of their caliber would have had on the world if they could have worshiped openly and without fear of losing their lives?
Surely, we have a freedom today that the Apostlesí prayed for constantly. What do we do with this freedom? How do we use this miracle that the Apostlesí prayed for? Often, we take it for granted. Many times we assume that it is no big deal to worship in peace and security! We dismiss it as commonplace.
Today, we have the ability to reach every nation on the earth by television, computer networks, free press, and still the Christian Nation as a whole is splintered and fragmented. There are so many divisions among the Protestant Churches that it is virtually endless.
Perhaps, the spark of hope that is fueled by common suffering has been lost in modern day Christianity. When mankind shares a bond of persecution, they will usually become victorious over this bond through a shared suffering. Must this be so in order for us to pull together? Was not Christ's suffering enough to provide us with a common bond that should remain with us for all eternity?
Sadly enough, today in Modern Eastern Orthodoxy, we have groups of believers that are supposed to be united as One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, that do not follow the true teachings of Christ in their dealings with their Eastern Orthodox Christian brethren. We have haughty factions or groups of ethnic bound Eastern Orthodox believers that publicly denounce as invalid anyone that is Eastern Orthodox and not of their diocese, or particular association. Is this problem a product of our new found boldness, or is it a result of human foolishness?
To denounce your Christian brethren as invalid is directly violating the teachings of Christ, we find proof of this when Jesus Christ set the Apostles straight on this issue in the Gospel according to St. Mark in Chapter 9 starting with verse 38: "And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part. For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward. And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea."
Christ was speaking out in this verse against the sin of arrogance that human beings tend to fall victim to. We often think that we are better than others, or that we have a right to do this or that, believing that others do not share equal privileges with us. What is particularly sad about this is that in the Orthodox Study Bible such an attitude is called Sectarianism or triumphalism (the attitude that one creed is superior to all others). It states that such a belief is forbidden because Godís working transcends our limited perceptions, because one is either for Christ or against Him, and it is not always ours to know who is on which side.
I guess you could say it was easy for the Apostles to be in one accord since they truly shared the bond of equal persecution. They prayed for boldness in the face of this persecution. We have received the reward of their prayers and yet we often revert to persecuting others and entering into judgment when we should be uniting together and praising God for allowing us to live in a time when we can worship in freedom and peace.
To bring sectarianism into the Church is to denounce the hopes and prayers of the Apostles, who desperately wanted the church to remain united in the oneness that Jesus Christ intended. Recently, I heard about an Orthodox Priest that was talking with a friend of another Orthodox Priest. The first Orthodox Priest when asked if he knew the other Orthodox Priest replied, "Oh, I donít recognize him as a Priest!" He went on to say "he probably doesnít recognize me as a priest either!" How do you think Christ felt about this statement? Both Priests were ordained by valid Eastern Orthodox Orders, yet the first priest made the same error that the Apostlesí did in our example from the gospel according to St. Mark.
How foolish we must appear to Jesus Christ, when after the wonderful examples provided for us in the Scriptures, we choose to ignore them and follow our own teachings. How very silly must we appear to be with our divisions, creeds, associations and cliques that we form with apparent ease. Each one denouncing the other as invalid or wrong, when, both sides by virtue of teachings of Christ are equally wrong in their views of sectarianism.
Yes, we are living the answer to the Apostles prayers for the ability to stand boldly in the face of persecution and to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us realize this fact; be thankful to our Gracious Lord Jesus Christ for this opportunity. Let us peacefully co-exist in harmony and one accord to serve the Lord in singleness of heart.
Let us also be thankful for the very right to assemble in the Name of the Most Holy Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savior, and to proclaim His Name throughout the world. Let us never take for granted the freedom that cost so many of our Christian Brothers and Sisters their lives. They paid the price for our freedom, let us not abuse it by adopting teachings that are against the very faith we hold dear.
A PRAYER FOR RENEWAL IN THE HOLY SPIRIT
By: The Right Reverend Father Michael D. Jordan
In the Name Of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Hear us this day as we call upon You with one mouth and one heart, united in one accord as Your Holy Apostles were united.
Deliver us from every defilement of flesh and spirit. Enable us by the gift of Your Most Holy Spirit to raise our one united voice before You in Worship, praise and thanksgiving.
We thank You for your long suffering when dealing with our human weaknesses. We thank You for Your Mercy which is extended to us every hour of every day. We thank You for the Gift of Your Grace, which enables us to stand uncondemned before God the Father, Almighty.
We pray that You will draw us close in Spirit, that we may accomplish the work that was laid out for us by Your Apostles. We pray that you will nourish our hearts with Your Holy Teachings, allowing us to hold these Teachings true and secure in a pure and humble heart.
We ask for Your Holy Protection that we may live our lives in peace and safety. We ask for the Gift of Your Holy Love, that we may share it with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We ask that when it is our time to fall asleep in the Lord that we are granted a peaceful hour to depart this life. May we enter Your Kingdom as the dying thief, confessing You, O Lord, remember us in Your Kingdom.
These things we ask in the Holy Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
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