Today’s reading is Acts 17.
As we have seen throughout Acts, Paul moved around quite a bit. He encountered many different people. We read about Paul in Thessalonica, in Berea and in Athens. In Berea and Thessalonica, he continued to preach the good news to those who will listen, yet seemed to have danger lurking within the crowds of non-believers. Athens appears to be different. When he arrived, he was concerned with all the idols being worshiped. He was not met with resistance when he first met with the Jews. There were people worshiping, just not worshiping God. They show characteristics of being Christians but seem to be distracted. They did not throw him out at first sight, but instead were anxious to seek the next big thing or idea. “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.
19 Then they took him in and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)
We all know people who are seeking the next big idea or the next generation phone or computer or car. We can get distracted by the next best thing and sometimes need to be redirected back to God, right?
Paul did not turn away from this opportunity. He commends them by stating that he does see worshiping taking place, yet he corrects them by saying “I see that in every way you are very religious”. Does he see hope that maybe his preaching will focus them on worshiping God?
23 “For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.”
He recognized the opportunity. H e persevered. He seized that moment of time to proclaim his faith and share his views on Christianity.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.”
Paul took action! He tried to clear up some of their beliefs and redirect them. He tried to draw them in toward the end by telling them about Jesus’ resurrection. If they have faith and believe, their sins will be forgiven.
Paul reminds us that we only need God. Paul shares the good news that God provides for us and nourishes us with his spirit. He gives us food, shelter, and direction. Paul wanted the people of Athens to understand that God made the world. God gave them what they need “life and breath and everything else”. They seem to be taking it for granted. They are distracted just like we are at times. God provided for them and in return, he wanted them to believe, to seek, to find. The same thing is true for us. May we: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7. May we believe in his resurrection. May we also find ways to be disciples just like Paul and seize the opportunity to share the good news.