Scripture: Acts 17:21-23 (CEV)More than anything else the people of Athens and the foreigners living there loved to hear and to talk about anything new. So Paul stood up in front of the council and said:
People of Athens, I see that you are very religious. As I was going through your city and looking at the things you worship, I found an altar with the words, “To an Unknown God.” You worship this God, but you don’t really know him. So I want to tell you about him.
Reflection:All too often these days, we look for and we focus on what makes us different from “them”: our clothes, our politics, our laws, our religion. We dig trenches and prepare for battle. We build walls to separate us from the “other.”
Athens was a city known for intellectual stimulation, for debates and learning. The Greek myths tell us at its founding the ancient gods battled over the privilege to become its patron. Athena, the goddess of wisdom, won.
But the Athenians didn’t want to neglect any of the other gods in their pantheon. They had shrines to all the gods they knew of. And, just to cover their bases, they had a shrine to “the Unknown God.”
Paul was no dummy himself. When he saw this shrine, he knew how to reach the citizens of this open-minded city. Here was his opening to share about the God he knew, the God who had created Jews and Greeks alike, the God who had come to us so that we could know and believe.
I’d like to think that Paul, however, learned something himself about God that day. God is not to be found in lectures or laws or close-mindedness. God is found in the open places in our minds and in our cultures. God is found where we meet together and share.
I once shocked the members of my congregation when I announced from the pulpit that it was a wonderful thing we had such a variety of churches. We all have different levels of comfort in our styles of worship, in our music, in our dress, even in the wording of our creeds. I believe that God meets us each where we are. God is present whether known or unknown.
God wants to lead us to the open places of possibility and sharing. God is too immense, too infinite, for any of us to have all the answers. We need to gather together to pool our wisdom and insight, and learn from other children of God.
Are we humble enough to admit there is much unknown about our God? And are we wise enough to venture into the open places and learn?
Prayer:O God of us all, who is both known and unknown to us, be with us, guide us and lead us to understanding more of you and of each other. Amen
Rev. Dr. Mobby Larson is a retired pastor in the New London Association.
May 17, 2017