Know your audience!
Listen to this daily worship
Acts 17: 16-31 (NRSVA)
16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he argued in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and also in the market-place every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Also some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers debated with him. Some said, ‘What does this babbler want to say?’ Others said, ‘He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign divinities.’ (This was because he was telling the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.) 19 So they took him and brought him to the Areopagus and asked him, ‘May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 It sounds rather strange to us, so we would like to know what it means.’ 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners living there would spend their time in nothing but telling or hearing something new.
22 Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, ‘Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. 23 For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, “To an unknown god.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 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, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26 From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28 For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said,
“For we too are his offspring.”
29 Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. 30 While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’
‘The city was a junkyard of idols’ — Acts 17:16 (The Message).
One of the things that a number of people in Ministry try and do regularly is ‘walk their parish’. It is incredible who and what you come across in the course of your travels as you explore everything from the smallest lane to the largest unit of the shopping centre. I have many fond memories of sharing a ‘Good morning’ on a morning walk with people walking in the opposite direction, who have obviously not spoken to a soul for days or whose faces beam as they respond, ‘Yes, it is!
While waiting for Timothy and Silas in Athens, Paul took time to look around him. He didn’t like what he saw as he discovered more and more idols and decided to share his concerns with those around him. While some did dismiss him (in The Message, some dismissed him as ‘an airhead’!), others were intrigued and wanted to know more.
What idols are we surrounded by at the moment?
Who or what are we focussing our attentions on instead of turning our eyes to Jesus?
How many people are seeking God, but are stuck at the altar with those worshipping ‘the God nobody knows’?
While we can criticise people for not taking the time to learn more about the God we know, do we also need to share some responsibility in our reluctance to make God known to those who are seeking answers?
It is all very well looking around us, tutting and shaking our heads at the idols that surrounds us, but how many of us, like Paul, are going to play a part in addressing it and paving the way for people to know who God is, how much God loves them and how much God wants to be a part of their lives?
Lord Jesus Christ,
Thank you that we have come to know you and how much you love us.
Help us to make you known to the seeker and the sceptic.
And may they, in turn, seek to hear more…