A short reading and prayers for today
Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way,for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ Acts 17:22-23 NLT
Paul must have been delighted to get an opportunity to speak to the council, which was known as the Areopagus. This was a highly respected body and brought together the leading thinkers of Athenian society. I love the graciousness and sensitivity of Paul’s approach to them. He wanted to build a bridge with these learned people. He observed that he had been looking around the city and noticed that they were very religious. They would have loved that. But he goes further, remarking that he had come upon one particular altar which was “To an Unknown God.” I am sure that his hearers were flattered by the care with which Paul had surveyed the situation and they were all ears.
If we are to speak compellingly to our society, we too need to build a bridge. I took a while to recognise this. I recall coming upon a booklet in my mid-teens which told me all the shortcomings of the beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was fascinated and decided that I should try to remember as much of it as possible so that when they next visited I could defeat them with all the excellent points made in the booklet. The day came. I knew they were Jehovah’s Witnesses as soon as they walked towards the house and I launched quickly into my carefully prepared attack. It won’t be a surprise to you that I was completely unsuccessful. Attacking people, however wrong they may be, is never a way of building a relationship! Paul’s sensitive approach didn’t for a moment mean that he watered down his message. He simply ensured that what he said made sense to his hearers. Having built a bridge, he was then able to get to the core of his message and he urged his hearers to repent. We have much to learn from this. Most people in our society have not a single clue about the Christian message and we need to communicate by starting where they are if we are ever to share the Good News of Jesus effectively.
How could Paul’s approach help us as we share the Good News?
Loving God help us to speak relevantly and clearly to our society. Amen
God invites us to hold the needs of our sisters and brothers as dear to us as our own needs. Loving our neighbours as ourselves, we offer our thanksgivings and our petitions on behalf of the church and the world. Hear our prayers, God of power, and through the ministry of your Son free us from the grip of the tomb, that we may desire you as the fullness of life and proclaim your saving deeds to all the world. Amen.
As you heard the prayer of Isaac and Rebekah, O God, and guided them in the way of your love, so listen now to those who call upon you. Move us to praise your gracious will, for in Christ Jesus you have saved us from the deeds of death and opened for us the hidden ways of your love. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.