Sunday, August 28, 2016

It costs so little

Over six years ago I started recording myself reading the Greek New Testament aloud, and posting the recordings on a blog, Η Καινή Διαθήκη. The recordings are short, one chapter each. I didn’t want to tire anyone out.

I think when I started, my idea was to eventually have the entire Greek New Testament read aloud online. I read the Revelation and the Gospel, both of St John, first. Then I added the letters of St John. Next, I read the letter to the Hebrews, which is where I logically go when I am tutoring someone in Greek. But that is where I stopped.

My life changed. Other things got in the way, even crowding out the blissful times I had reading Greek aloud to myself, when I wasn't tutoring or studying with a friend.

The blog, though six years old now, still works. You can go there and listen to me reading Greek the way I learned it in church, tinged with a bit of my Israeli Hebrew accent. I know there are mistakes here and there in my pronunciation or diction. I try to read the text with meaning, but I sometimes fail. I actually get tired a little, when I am reading aloud for a couple of hours, and the connexion between eyes, mind and voice sometimes falters.

Since I read the scriptures aloud in the original languages anyway, one day I thought, why not record them and put them online for the benefit of others? And that’s what I did. At the time, there were no online audio files of the original Greek New Testament, just the modern Greek translation. In the years since, perhaps others have put the Greek New Testament in audio files online.

Some people have thanked me and wondered at the effort I put into it, as if it were something extraordinary, when actually it wasn’t. I ‘sacrificed’ one morning of free time on a weekend to read and record Revelation. For the Gospel, a few hours on two days during the same long weekend. I wrote sacrificed in quotes because it was anything but a sacrifice. There’s nothing I would’ve preferred to do than read the scriptures aloud.

A Greek woman at my church laughed at me one day and called out to her friends sitting at a nearby table having coffee after liturgy, ‘Romanós reads the Greek bible to relax! He says it’s fun!’ I laughed along with them, maybe for a different reason.

The truth is, there is so much we can do to build up the Body of Christ, the Church, and it takes so little effort, so little organization, so little cost.

The institutional church, when it wants to do a ‘good work’ or a ‘ministry’ or whatever it calls it, expends so much time, energy and even money just setting up for it. Yet, after all is said and done, and they’ve finished thanking and congratulating each other, what was really accomplished, really now, not just in appearance?

Sometimes a lot, yes, but often, precious little, and I do mean precious. Why? Because time, money and talent, as they call these three commodities, are ‘precious’ to those who actually think they own them.

The truth, however, is very different. We actually own nothing, not our time, not our talent, not even our money.

Mother Gavrilía Papayanni used to say, ‘There is nothing cheaper than money.’ 

I’ve often wondered what she meant by that, but I’m guessing she meant that giving money to causes (to make ourselves feel better) is the easiest and least costly way to help others.

Back to the facts, we own none of these things. All that we have and all that we are is pure gift from above, from the Father, and so it’s really quite ridiculous to act as though we are doing anything extraordinary when we expend these on others rather than ourselves.

The time it takes me to read scriptures aloud for myself or for others, that time is the Lord’s. That expense is to His account. It costs me nothing. Even if I forget myself, and fall into thinking that I own what’s in my pocketbook, still it costs so little to do so much for someone else, so why not just do it?

Sometimes it’s money, but usually it is simply a kind word, a sincere eye-to-eye look, a smile, even a silly joke or small talk to someone who, if not for you, would be locked in the prison of their own cares.

It costs so little for us to liberate our neighbor from that, and sometimes, it even liberates us!

Μηδενι μηδεν οφειλετε ει μη το αγαπαν αλληλους ο γαρ αγαπων τον ετερον νομον πεπληρωκεν.
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.
Romans 13:8 NIV

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