Here are my thoughts for the 6th Sunday of Easter.
I cannot help but wonder how Paul would react in today’s world, especially in light of the first lesson for today (Acts 17: 22 – 31). Or rather, how would today’s society react?
For back then, as Paul spoke in Athens, he spoke of an idol dedicated to an unknown god. In a world where there was a god for just about everything, we have a utilitarian sort of god, one that covered everything that wasn’t already covered. Today, the problem isn’t that we need such a god but rather we don’t have this god. In fact, the God whom I personally call Father and who sent His Son so that I may have eternal life is virtually unknown today.
The atheists and secular humanists of the left would have us believe there is no god at all but they offer no option other than a religion of rational thought and logic. Instead of promoting their new “religion”, they simply attack other religions, often (I think) in anger because they asked for something and they didn’t get it.
By the same token, fundamentalists and other religious conservatives offer a god that bears little resemblance to the Father that Jesus Christ told us about. The god of the fundamentalists is an angry god, quick to seek retribution and vengeance, militaristic in nature and blind to the problems of the world. Their god is an authoritarian god, one that does not allow questions and forbids the seeking of the truth. They seek a world in which knowledge is limited and no one outside a select circle is allowed to know the truth.
And it would seem that the only god that the atheists and secular humanists see is this god. We live in a world where the one true God is unknown.
Fortunately, as Paul himself stated to the Athenians some two thousand years ago, God tends to overlook the ignorance of human beings. In that same speech, Paul makes it very clear that it was God who created the heaven and the earth but Paul does not offer a timeline. He does say that mankind would search for Him. To me, this is an affirmation of both the Genesis story and the nature of evolution. We are created by God and we are to seek God. We cannot do that in a realm limited to faith or logic alone. We must do it in a world of faith and logic.
There are those of us who believe in this God because we understand in our hearts the sacrifice His Son made on the Cross for us. We are a minority of believers however. We are the ones to whom Peter wrote his letter (1 Peter 3: 13 – 22), encouraging us to speak out and led the kind of life that Jesus taught us to live and those in the first Christian communities sought to live.
Ours is not a God of war and violence but one of peace. Ours is a God that cares for His children, seeking to include every one of them even when they do not know they are included. We understand the promise Christ made that we would not be alone; we understand that it is not easy, especially when those on the far right and the far left have louder voices and offer easier solutions.
It is easy to blame others for the ills of society; it means that you do not have to do anything to fix the problems that create the ills. It is easy to say there is no god but then you have to develop one to explain the things that logic and reason cannot explain.
God is not unknown; it is just that too many people are not looking for Him. They look around and they see death and destruction, they see sickness and disease, they see poverty and homelessness and they wonder why. And then they look around and they see people who, in the name of Christ and God, seek to exclude people, not include them. They see people who in the name of God and Christ seek destruction and violence instead of creation and peace. They see people who in the name of Christ and God seek to limit the knowledge of this world, not increase knowledge of this world. And they see those who argue against such people but offer nothing in return.
This is a time when we who are Christians must live up to our name. This is a time when those known as Christians must be the ones who seek peace, who seek to heal, who seek to bring freedom to the oppressed and who live according to the ways we were taught. It will not be easy to live this way; it will not be easy to get people to listen to you in a world that demands quick fixes and physical proof.
The fix will not be quick but the proof will be physical. For we have been offered the Holy Spirit (John 14: 15 – 21) and we have been give a new life. In us people will see the proof and they will wonder why. And then they will know that God is not unknown but among us today.