THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK – The Unknown God 17th May 2020
Our thoughts this week are again based on the reading from Acts set for the week (Acts 17: 22-31). This is the account of the apostle Paul debating with the thinkers and philosophers of Athens in the Areopagus – an important place for debate and discussion on serious matters, including the gods! It would be impossible here to consider all the background and philosophies of the Epicureans and Stoics Paul was addressing, suffice to say they had various interpretations regarding these gods and what their responses to them should be. The thing that caught Paul’s eye was that for all their philosophies and thinking, which I have no doubt was deep, genuine and in some cases full of logic, they were aware something was missing. This awareness manifested itself at an alter bearing the inscription ‘To an unknown god’. Paul senses the possibility of minds open to the message he had to offer. The message that there is a God, one true God who need not be unknown; A God who wanted them to know Him, and have a relationship with Him.
But what about today? As we walk around Chelmsford or any town or City (when we’re able…) it would be hard to find many temples or idols to the gods, or any alter ‘to an unknown god’. Or would it? All around us we see evidence of the worship of material things, the latest i-phone, smart screen TV, Car… There are people for whom life would mean nothing without the last technology, or membership of a particular gym, club or social media group. I’m not against any of these things per se, the problem is when they become the object of worship – and at times that is what happens. And yet, if you speak to many of those same people, they will tell you that although they don’t believe in God as such, they believe there is something… they just don’t know what it is.
In these uncertain times people may be searching even more, while at the same time being even more unsure. So where are the Alters to this unknown something? Dare I be very controversial here and suggest perhaps it’s some of our churches? Ouch! I hear you say. But let’s be honest, how many people walk past churches today without ever knowing what goes on inside? Have churches, for some, become ‘temples to an unknown God?’
When Paul was speaking in Athens, one of the things he said was ‘The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands,… (Acts 17: 24, NRSV). As with material things, there is nothing wrong with churches in themselves, the problem is when we try to lock God inside them and not share Him with the outside world. But how do we do that? Paul looked at where the Athenians were and talked to them in a language they understood. Sometimes the language that speaks the loudest today – and one people understand – is the language of action. And that’s what we need, the sharing of the love of God as Paul shared his wisdom with the Athenians, not just with each other, but with all those we meet along life’s way, especially those from whom the grace, love and mercy of God has been hidden behind closed doors, those searching for that unknown something. And when the opportunity presents itself, not just to show them, but tell them it’s God’s love we share and that He loves them too.
On a positive note, it’s true His love is being shared today, through countless selfless acts, every hour of every day. So let’s all play our part in that sharing and may God’s power and Love be with each one of us as we do so.
And if you are one to whom this love is unknown, reach out, take it, God’s love is for all and He wants you to know it.
The church really can be a beautiful place of love and tranquility
outside and in.
We thank you for your great Love for us.
We ask your forgiveness
For the times we have
Failed to share that love with others
We pray for those who in these difficult times
Are struggling to find meaning and hope,
Those searching for that special something,
Something they know is missing.
As the unknown god was revealed
To the Athenians long ago
We pray that those searching today
Will have their hearts and minds opened to
Reveal the truth of Your love and mercy.
That they may receive Your comfort and peace.
Give them and us the courage and strength
To face all that is ahead of us,
Sound judgement to those who have to
Make difficult decisions,
Wisdom to those who search for
Medical answers to the current pandemic.
And may those who have lost loved ones
Feel your comforting hand upon them.
We ask it all in Jesus Name.