Today’s lectionary recounting of Paul’s speech to the people of Athens is, for me, the most meaningful text in the Bible book of The Acts of the Apostles. There are many stirring speeches and miraculous deeds in this important record of early Christianity but this inspired oration holds a truth that the world would be wise to consider now. If I were trying to express the deepest truth of a faith worthy of all humanity (to everyone else who professes to believe in a divine being, a “first cause,” not tied to a religion but larger than that, not gender specific, although necessarily personified at times as he, she, or it but also beyond that), I believe I could find no better expression than these words of Paul.
Consider it, read it aloud (replacing the masculine pronoun “he” if it serves you better), and see if you can imagine a world coming together around such a declaration. It might take some letting go of “lesser gods” – or not, if they are compatible with this characterization of a supreme being. It might take some welcome of primitive cultures. We might come to appreciate the diversity of ways to name God, or G-d. Who knows what might happen if we allow ourselves the total freedom to “let go and let God” as we consider the possible unity resulting from consideration of Paul’s inspired text?
The God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything. Rather, it is he who gives to everyone life and breath and everything. He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions, so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us. For ‘in him we live and move and have our being.’ (ACTS 17)