So where are we now?
When reading the Acts of the Apostles you would notice that we are constantly on the move, travelling from one place to the next, listening to the stories and teachings shared with faith communities and the wider cities that we find ourselves in. What is interesting about this is we are also opened up to some of the characteristics of the people we are reading about.
Much like the reading from last week, we see that Paul is assertive and we see that can cross over into having an ‘attitude’. He is a no-nonsense individual who could have probably used a bit more nuance and delicacy with his approach sometimes. We can see how last week Paul’s rash responses got him and Silas thrown in prison, but this week we see this response summoned a different response.
The reading for this week finds us following Paul as he travels from Berea to Athens, where he was to wait for Silas and Timothy to also come. But before the others arrive Paul is overwhelmed at the immense number of statues that the community idolises. He was so distressed that he found himself in the synagogue and through the marketplace arguing with anyone who would listen. Last week we saw this attitude throw him in prison for disturbance, but in Athens this vigour and assurance piqued the curiosity of the people, and so he was invited to share at the Areopagus. Now the Areopagus is probably any intellectual buff’s dream. Philosophy, Morality, Theology, Poetry and the Arts were all presented here for people to listen and ponder and mull over because the community loved knowledge and intellect.
But is this what Paul was really wanting to share about Jesus? Where Jesus is merely seen as another ‘note’ in the ‘intellect song’? Just another statue to honour and idolise?
The Athenians could see the height, depth and breadth of the divine, all these depictions and projections of who God is and who God can be - so much so that with all the gods, demigods, and the unknowns of gods were honoured and revered. The community was so meticulous to make sure they adored every possible aspect of the divine, that the idea they could learn more of the gods through Paul’s words was important.
But from v22-28 we hear what Paul’s opinion was; simply put Paul tried to share with the Athenians that ‘With the worship of everything, you have missed the only thing.’ So, what can we learn from Paul’s experience in Athens? How does this story resonate with our own life?
Is there a possibility that we have missed the only thing that really matters? What is it?