The earliest Christians followed a Jewish tradition of pausing to pray, preferably together, first thing in the morning, about mid morning, at noon, about mid afternoon, and in the evening. “Just a Note” posts are brief observations made from Scripture readings not related to a lectionary. If I have one to post, it normally appears about 9:00 in the morning, at “the hour of prayer.”
In Acts 17:16-21 the apostle Paul is in Athens. He wonders at the religiosity of the city. It is truly known to be a place full of religious belief and practice. We might think that a community which is full of religious people would be very likely to receive religious claims. However, this is not the case. When Paul spent time disputing the claims of Christ with people in the city, he did receive their notice. However, they were not prone to convert.
People who hold strong convictions - religious, philosophical, or even secular - will normally be hesitant to accept opposing views. The best of them have made up their minds carefully and deliberately, based on good information. Why would we want to give up a view that we came to intelligently? It makes no sense.
While in Athens, however, Paul is taken to a hill, the home of an historic sacred grove to Ares. We probably shouldn’t look for much symbolism. It’s simply an easily recognizable place which was suitable for discussion. What is significant here is that the people of Athens would gather to do nothing but hear and discuss new doctrines. It was a chat group. When Paul was in the city, presenting a new type of belief, people wanted to hear about it.
We often become excited when others seem willing to hear about the Christian faith. However, in some cases, like this one in Athens, they are simply interested in hearing something new. Answers to questions we didn’t have are not often used for anything. And that’s exactly what the people are expecting from Paul.
We need to be prepared for the expectations others might have about the message we bring. Are we faithful with the message? Certainly. The Christian message says that Jesus took the place of all who sin so they could take the place of him in his resurrection. Plain and simple - Jesus takes away our wrongdoing by taking our place. Are all going to believe? Sadly, no. But we strive to be faithful anyway. That’s the way our world works.
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