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.”
Paul’s sermon at the Areopagus in Acts 17:22-34 is often cited as an fine example of a missionary’s sermon. It identifies something in the city, an altar to an unknown god. It makes a quotation of a Greek poet. This should show the people that Paul is ready to be one of the “in crowd.” Paul then goes on to speak of the heart of the Gospel. He brings up the idea of the resurrection of the dead.
This is precisely where Paul loses his audience. In Greek philosophy, the goal of death is to gain release from the body. In Christian theology, the bodily resurrection is central. We look to a Lord who was raised bodily from the dead as the firstfruits of a general resurrection which will include our bodies.
Christianity is so strikingly different from the local religion that Paul’s statements made no sense at all. A few people understood and believed, but not many. This wonderful pattern of a missionary sermon has a less than stellar influence on the hearers. Paul is much more successful in other locations.
Our attempts to fit in with another people group may or may not work. Our attempts to show unity with others may work. They may fall flat. Some people are ready to hear about Christ crucified for them. Others are not. What we learn from this passage, above all, is that Jesus must be preeminent in all that we say and do. It is his Gospel, it is his life for us, it is his death applied to us, and it is his resurrection that we look to for hope of the promises he has made to us. This is heart and center of the Christian message.
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