Outline for sermon based on Acts 17:16-31
Paul wanders through Athens, sees idols, and is dismayed at the sight.
What idols would someone see wandering through Anchorage? LCOH? Our home/car/backpack?
In order to convince the Athenians to put up an idol to a new god, the evangelist of the new deity must assert the ability to speak of the deity and the deity’s desires. One of the desires of the god must be to reside in Athens. The god’s Athenian residency must bring good will and blessing to the citizens.
Yet, the Athenians have installed an altar to an unknown god.
What actions in our life that would indicate to people that we worship a known God or an unknown god?
Paul speaks to them the one whom they have classified as “unknown” is actually God over all things. This God is not limited in space, time, or material, but is the source of all things. This God is not a small provincial idol, but the Divine Presence of every place and within whom everything “lives and moves” and has being. Furthermore, God is not capricious, creating blessing and suffering with equal whimsy. Instead, God has continued to create revelation of the Divine will.
It was God’s pleasure to reveal the Divine desire for relationship through worship, prayer, and service (summed up as discipleship) through the life and teaching of Jesus. God has also communicated an intention to judge all people on their discipleship and, according Paul, Jesus’ resurrection is the sign that this judgment will occur. There is time to repent (to turn around) and to live in imitation of Christ.
How do we do that, if we know longer see him?
Jesus tells us that we are not orphaned, but we have the Holy Spirit- who comes alongside us and guides us specifically in worship, prayer, and service to others.
Did the Athenians go out and tear down their idols?
Did the story of God’s omnipresence and power and Jesus’ resurrection move them to a conversion and dedication of their city, their homes, and their lives to the one true God?
Does it happen for us?
What are your (our) idols- not just visible things (like habits or physical items), but also intangibles like convenience, patriotism, intelligence, rationality, logic, efficiency, novelty, traditions, orthodoxy, or perfection? Idolatry can take all kinds of forms. These things can be our “unknown gods”, but they often have bigger place in our lives that the God who actually saves us from death, hell, and ourselves.
A thought to meditate on this week: how would you (we) need to alter our routines, homes, or lives to demonstrate that God- Holy Parent, Holy Son, Holy Spirit- has our truest devotion and our highest allegiance? What would that look like? And what holds you (us) back?