Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 67; 150, Numbers 21:4-9, 21-35, Acts (17:12-21) 17:23-24, Luke 13:10-17
While Paul was stranded in Athens after being driven out of Berea, he didn’t waste any time. Paul noticed the Athenians were always looking for something new to believe in, and he took advantage of their nature to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Greek pantheon included a dozen Olympian gods and many more besides, so the city was full of idols to all of them. In one temple he noticed an shrine dedicated to “an unknown god” just in case the worshipers had missed a deity. Paul told the Athenians this unknown god was the god of Israel, who had made the world and everything in it.
Constructing an idol to an unknown God may seem opportunistic or pragmatic, but there is a certain element of humility in it. Allowing for an unknown God was admitting “there is more to the nature of divinity than we know.” Despite all our talk about the mystery of God, many Christians are content to behave as if God is completely known to us. Our idols are creeds and books, doctrine and dogma. How often have we used them to justify the worship of a false god – a god who condones inequality and injustice, corruption and bigotry; a god who values what and who we value, and hates what and who we hate? A god we have created in our own image.
Jesus remains a constant source of surprise about the nature of God. Over and over he taught us that defining and limiting God – even with the most righteous intentions – reduces us to worshiping a cold, dead idol with no spark of love or mercy. By using parables rather than directives, he showed us God is more knowable through question and mystery than through rigid rule books. We aren’t free to define God however we want, but we are free from having God defined for us by people pretending to have all the answers. Admitting ignorance is sometimes a giant leap toward wisdom. Genesis tells us God spoke the world into existence; Christ’s incarnation transformed that monologue into an ongoing conversation.
Comfort: You don’t have to have all the answers.
Challenge: Nobody has all the answers.
Prayer: God of creation, I seek to follow Jesus Christ to truth and love. Correct my path when I am in error, and keep my heart humble. Amen.
Discussion: What is the difference between seeking truth, and simple rebelliousness?
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