Thursday's Thought for Sunday's Service
May 18, 2017
Across the wide spectrum of human experience, what seems clear enough is the power of language to illuminate problems and describe solutions. As such, a finely-honed argument, like what took place at the Areopagus* long ago, was one of the ways religious speech was communicated -- an argument in front of an intelligent audience of leaders and law makers on a hill rising from the middle of ancient Athens, a city in Greece.
I think about communicating the gospel these days, with so many available and varied television channels, and the easy availability of a much wider audience. I wonder if it's harder to target and focus a message. As producers of the church “channel” seeking to express a persuasive argument for God, we grapple with diversity, short attention spans, and fierce competition. How do we make an effective spiritual argument? It’s an important question.
What is it that draws you to a television program? On one hand, consider a well-developed story across a full-length feature film of 2 to 3 hours; or many connected episodes across an entire broadcasting season. Or, on the other hand, consider a free standing one hour legal drama; or an attention getting short burst of highly produced images mixed with a persuasive message creatively combined in a thirty second commercial. In any case, we are drawn to a block buster movie. We do pay attention to a cleverly designed thirty second advertisement. How can the church speak of God in contemporary ways with the same effect? As always, the challenge remains. We must try to make a compelling argument. The good news is that God is still relevant, the calling to repent is just as potent as ever.
Thinking about how one argues for God, perhaps we can draw a few hints from the ways God argues for us.
Pastor Rich Wagner
* (in ancient Athens) a hill on which met the
highest governmental council and later a
This week’s Thursday’s Thought for Sunday’s Service is based upon Acts 17:22-31:
“Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”” (Acts 17:22–31, NIV)
One of the things that is hard to escape when considering the role of church is the constant challenge to effectively communicate the message of the gospel. How is God’s word and work indicated as a significant part daily experience? How do we invite others to participate? Using a contemporary image, one might find help by imagining a metaphorical TV as a window to the world, broadcasting via an attractive and compelling channel – one which speaks of how God relates to us.