This is one of my entries for the Abingdon Creative Preaching Annual for 2014.
Paul shares the Good News of the Gospel with a crowd of Athenians in the marketplace and his rhetoric is masterful. He doesn’t insult them. He doesn’t scare them. He invites them to see something familiar in a new way. He allows them to re-interpret their tradition in light of new information about Jesus. He encourages them to consider that the God for whom they have been striving who was unknown is now able to be known through the person of Jesus of Nazareth.And Paul suggests that one of the reasons we were created by this now known God was so we “would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us”.
I love this. What a gift. How would we live life differently if we considered that we were here on earth to search and grope and, perhaps, find God? Doesn’t that remove any certainty we might try to bring to the faith journey?
If we are here to be Searchers and Gropers and Finders, then we are not here to be Declarers and Fact Finders and People who live without mystery. It isn’t our job to have all of the answers and get an “A” on the test of life.
God created us to seek, to wander around in the dark with our hands out in front of us, hoping we’ll stumble into the God we seek.
Paul calls them to imagine God, and themselves, in more lofty terms than they are used to doing. Rather than worshipping a God of stone or silver or gold, they are called to consider that we are offspring of God. And so the God we worship should be better than stone. And the people who worship God reflect God’s very love back to the world.
The tension in this text between known and unknown keeps us from settling with easy answers. Yes, God is closer to us than an “unknown god”. We are offspring of God, who is nearby. We know about God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, a man who was known. But for all we know about God, we are still groping in the dark, searching high and low and, perhaps, finding God.
How do you share the Good News of the Gospel? With a set of proscribed tenets to which the Athenians must adhere? Or do you invite people to stumble around in the dark with you, knowing that God is never far away?