On A Day In July

Acts 17:22-31 – The 6th Sunday of Easter – for May 25, 2014

“…I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To An Unknown God…’” (Acts 17:23)

According to the seventeenth chapter of Acts, Paul stood at Athens’ Areopagus and challenged the Greeks about worshiping an “unknown God.” In a city and an era where many gods were worshiped, Paul had stumbled across a local altar with words that declared allegiance to that “unknown” deity.

A modern view of the Areopagus in Athens...
A modern view of the Areopagus in Athens…

I’m impressed by Paul’s first-century speech in Acts. With rousing philosophical arguments, he out-Greeked the Greeks. Paul’s blunt exhortation about worshiping the one true God of his faith versus the many false Gods of their culture was thoughtful, faithful and persuasive.

The God Paul proclaimed was not unknown! God was real, and could never be understood by creating shrines of gold or silver. In a smattering of verses, the author of Acts had Paul recount creation, alluding to Adam and Eden, and declaring a confidence in a God that has “fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness . . .” The past was obvious. The future was set. All things were known.

How dare anyone worship an unknown God!

And yet I do. Continue reading →

I Believe…

Luke 1:39-45 – The 4th Sunday of Advent – for December 23, 2012

“And blessed is she who believed…” (Luke 1:45)

I am “skirting” Bethlehem this year. Click here for why.

Used cleverly, words disguise our inner self. Used honestly, words reveal our inner self.

What do you believe?

What do you think?

What do you know?

Which of the above questions—and its answer—would influence you the most when seeking a deeper relationship with another?

Since you’re a clever human bean, you might hedge your response by claiming it depends on the subject of the question and the asker of the query. True enough, but in general are you more interested in what another believes or thinks or knows about . . .

 Abortion. Abstinence. Allah. Birth control. Boxers or briefs. Cats or dogs. Christmas. Death penalty. Disarming a bomb. Gay rights. Global warming. God. Good guys finishing last. Heaven. Hell. Jesus. Love at first sight. Mindfulness. Opposites attract. Premarital sex. Reincarnation. Resurrection. Santa Claus. Sexual orientation. Shaken or stirred. Virgin birth. YHWH*

Of course, specifically . . . if two good guys (and let’s say I’m one of those good guys) were trapped in a room with a ticking bomb during Christmas, I’d prefer to know the other person can disarm bombs and really don’t care what he or she thinks about boxers vs. briefs or believes about abstinence.

What we believe/think/know about something, or what another person believes/thinks/knows about something, is always situational. Which is to say, are you planning to marry the other person or are you sharing an elevator ride to the tenth floor?

And yet I’m mostly a firm believer in belief.

During Advent and Christmas, I suspect many suspend knowing or thinking to enthusiastically (or reluctantly) embrace belief. What do we know about Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem? What do you think about those three wise men? Oops, sorry, we have no idea if there were three or thirty magi, though we know three gifts were mentioned in one insignificant (or magnificent) passage in a single Gospel. What do you KNOW about Jesus’ birth? I mean the real birth. The date. The place. The witnesses. What do you THINK about Jesus’ birth? Was Mary a virgin, did angels sing and how much fretting and scheming did Herod do? How much of a chasm exists between what you know/think and your BELIEFS? Is the difference a gap as modest as a manger or bigger than a barn?

What do I believe about Christmas? (And you can ask yourself the same question . . . what are your deepest, most real and revealing beliefs about this holy, peculiar season?)

Do you want to know what I believe? Continue reading →

At The Bottom Of The Holy Hill

Psalm 24 – The 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for July 15, 2012

“…Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place?” (Psalm 24:3)

Why do I still believe in God?

When I awoke this morning, dawn hours away and darkness shrouding my home, that question settled in beside me.

Unbidden. Unexpected.

And yet perhaps not, for earlier in the week I’d read a Psalm I’ve spoken, whispered or shouted scores of times . . . Psalm 24.

I’ve read Psalm 24 because I’ve read all the Psalms. I’ve read it because it follows the famous 23. I’ve heard variations of 24 because numerous hymns have been inspired by its words.

Earlier in the week, on a Wednesday, I’d again studied Psalm 24 as one of four scheduled lectionary readings. I could lie and claim its verses inspired or troubled me. They didn’t. The day before I’d glanced at a passage about King David. The next day, dutifully following the lectionary for July 15, I spent a few moments with the first chapter of Ephesians. None of those passages, Old or New Testament, did much for me. ‘Tis the truth.

Still, maybe something happened on that dull Wednesday morning when I read 24 for the 24th or 224th time. Did a notion get planted within my consciousness, quietly and benignly, like a seed in the soil?

And there it grew until a few days later—until I woke and wondered, “Why do I still believe in God?” I suspect verses three and four might’ve been the “seed” for my pre-dawn query.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully.

Isn’t the psalmist asking who can be with God? Then the pure-hearted and true-blue soul answer quickly arrives in the next verse. Continue reading →