May 16 – May 23, 2017

WORD

22Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way.  23For 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.  24The 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, 25nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.  26From 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, 27so 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.  28For ‘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.’  29Since 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.  30While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31because 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.”

Acts 17:22-31

Reading Scripture to Know:

  • What is happening/being said? (Observation)
  • Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
  • What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
  • What does it mean? (Understanding)
  • What does it mean for us? (Application)

Reading Scripture to Grow:

  • What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
  • Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
  • How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
  • How does this Scripture reveal God?
  • How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
  • How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
  • How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
  • What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?

Scripture Reads Me:

  • This passage makes me feel…
  • This passage makes me think about…
  • This passage reminds me of…
  • This passage teaches me that God is…
  • This passages teaches me that I am…
  • This passage challenges me to…

Reflection: Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way.  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.”

We set up altars everywhere we go by the ways in which we live our lives and present ourselves.  The words we speak to others and the actions we show to others can open up to them a glimpse of the love and grace of Jesus Christ.  Those who do not follow Christ, even those who would claim that they are not religious at all, each set up altars as well.  The altars they set up might not be in devotion to any particular deity, but instead show what they are devoted to.  Our words, actions, and attitudes demonstrate who and what we worship and who and what is most important to us.

When we pay special attention to the altars of the people we meet, then we can understand what they are longing for and how they might find a connection to Christ.  One-size-fits-all evangelism does not work.  Faith in Christ is an intensely personal matter – after all, we are called to give our whole selves over to Jesus Christ in love and devotion.  Any time we offer Christ to others, we must do so in a genuine, loving, and personally-sensitive way.  Offering Christ can only occur when we recognize the humanity and character of those to whom we are offering Christ.  Also, this must be done in genuine love and grace and never in judgment or through guilt/shame.

Paul understood this when he encountered the “extremely religious” people of Athens.  Their extreme religiosity even caused them to dedicate a temple to an unknown god so that they could cover all of their bases in case they missed something.  Paul recognized in this their search for truth and the true God.  He appealed to their spiritual sensitivity and introduced them to the God and Father of Jesus Christ by connecting faith in Christ to some cultural clues that already existed within their shared consciousness (namely their spiritual expressions of poetry and philosophy).

What elements in our culture, that are even present in our shared “non-Christian” collective consciousness, that we could use to connect others to Jesus Christ?  In other words, what altars might we set up for people that could connect their spiritual longings with the truth of Jesus Christ?  For instance, there is much in our culture (in music, social movements, visual arts, etc.) that focuses on the importance of intimacy and interdependence.  Often these desires are expressed in unhealthy, even sinful, ways.  However, the longings are there and we know that these longings are only ultimately filled through communion with God in Word and Spirit (and the good relationships that flow out of that divine-human connection).  How might we interact with others in such a way that would connect people with such spiritual longings with Christ-centered love and grace?  In the answer to that question lies the secret of evangelism.

Ultimately, we are an evangelistic people, just as Paul was an evangelist at heart and in action.  We are called to share the good news of Christ.  But do we do so in a way that is inviting to others?  Do the altars of our lives say “Welcome” or “Beware”?  How might you recognize the needs and spiritual longings of those around you and respond in ways that connect those needs with the fullness of God in Christ?  The people you know and love, or even the strangers you meet, might only know what grace is – might only know who Christ is – through you.

Daily Readings: 

  • Tuesday, May 16 – Daniel 12
  • Wednesday, May 17 – Joel 1
  • Thursday, May 18 – Joel 2
  • Friday, May 19 – Joel 3
  • Saturday, May 20 – Jonah 1
  • Sunday, May 21 – Jonah 2
  • Monday, May 22 –  Jonah 3
  • Tuesday, May 23 – Jonah 4
  • Wednesday, May 24 – Mark 1
  • Thursday, May 25 – Mark 2
  • Friday, May 26 – Mark 3
  • Saturday, May 27 – Mark 4
  • Sunday, May 28 – Mark 5
  • Monday, May 29 –  Mark 6

SPIRIT

Prayer Focus: From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth…

One of the basic affirmations of Scripture is that we are all part of one human family.  God loves Syrians and the Japanese and the Dutch just as much as God loves you.  Pray for people this week from faraway lands.  Perhaps you have visited a foreign country before.  If so, pray for the people of that land.  Or you might want to take a map out and move your fingers over the different countries, praying for the people as you do.  We are one family; we are all brothers and sisters in the household of God.  Pray both for the Church and for those who do not believe who reside in whatever area to which you feel drawn.  Connect with a distant cousin in God’s one big world through the spiritual blessing of prayer.

Meditation Focus: 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.

There is no way to adequately represent God through any craft of our hand.  God specifically forbade idolatry for this very reason.  When God desired to fully reveal Godself, it was done through the life and work of a living, breathing being who was both divine and human.  God also has chosen to reveal Godself in relationship – in the ways in which we encounter God in heart, mind, and spirit.  Furthermore, God reveals Godself in Word and Spirit – in the words of Scripture, written on our hearts, and in the movement and energy of the Holy Spirit.  In your quiet moments this week, ask yourself some deep, but important, questions.  How has God revealed Godself to me personally?  How do I know who God is?  How do I distinguish God’s voice or presence from the voices or presence of others (even of myself)?  How do I understand God in my mind?

Journaling Focus: While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent…

In what ways has “human ignorance” affected our world and its history?  How do we participate in “human ignorance” today?  Write your reflections on these two questions this week in your journal.  As you do so, pray that God would enlighten our minds and hearts and help us combat such ignorance and the damage it can do to our world and its people.  How might your personal repentance help heal the damage done to our world by such ignorance?  May God, in infinite wisdom and grace, destroy all the many ignorant acts of the world’s people, from racism and greed to all cruelty and oppression.

Holy Action: 

Ask someone what their greatest hopes, desires, and needs are.  Then listen!  After your conversation, ask God to reveal how you might be a source of encouragement and grace for that person.

Breath Prayer: Father, make us an altar of your mercy and grace.

 

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