In this (longer than usual) reading, St Paul is in Athens, Greece and feels saddened by the myriad of idols everywhere he looks. He finds himself in conversation with the Greek philosophers who had trouble believing what this atheist ‘babbler’ was saying about one larger God.
‘Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 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 not knowledgable about the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
‘“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. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 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. 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. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
‘“Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
‘When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.”’ – Acts 17: 22-32 NLT
- God (Hebrew: Yahweh or YHWH) is other and does not live in temples built by human hands. St. Bonaventure (1217-1274) put it this way, ‘[God] is an intelligible space whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere … is within all things but not enclosed, above all things but not aloof, outside all things but not excluded, below all things but not debased … is supremely one and all-inclusive … is therefore all in all.’
- Consider, how can I find God if he is not in a specific place?
- Notice at the end of the reading that some aren’t interested in the God Paul is speaking about but others are more open and reflective and wish to discuss more. My hope for this site is that it will become a safe place for us to God-talk.
- God’s passion is that we should ‘reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us’.
- What next step does ‘reaching out for him’ mean for me?
- ‘We are his offspring.’ If this is true, how should I feel about searching for and reaching out to God?
Pray the Jesus Prayer:
‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ (Pray repetitively, deeply, quietly, out loud or internally. Whenever you wish, until you’ve prayed enough.)