It’s almost 6am in Athens. I can hear the humm of cars outside as morning approaches. Really that humm has been there all night never really letting up. Athens has been going all night as cars drive a key circle in the road way system here. Reading the news for the past many weeks and months, I wondered what I should expect when arriving here. Reading Luke’s account of Paul’s visit to Athens from nearly 2,000 years ago(Acts 17:27ff), I also wondered what I should expect. Paul’s first observance was feeling disturbed by the number of idols he saw throughout the city as the people attempted to make the presence of the gods real to everyday life.
Rather than worried that they didn’t believe in the ONE, true God, Paul’s message to the Athenian philosophers was centered around the fact he worried that they didn’t know that God was truly present all of the time, everywhere and that they didn’t need to make carved images to feel and see the presence of God in their lives. Paul stated to them at the Areopagus on Mars Hill, “God isn’t far away from any of us. In God we live and move and exist. As some of your poets said, ‘We are his offspring.’ Therefore, as God’s offspring, we have no need to imagine that the divine being is like a gold… image made by human skill or thought” (Acts 17:27-30).
Paul wanted the people of Athens to know that God was present all of the time in all places in EVERYONE. God is present because we are all God’s offspring. WE are the presence of God. We are God’s reps here on Earth. No need for carved images to have God show up, instead, we are to be the presence of God by how we live our lives.
As I consider the beginning of my journey here in Athens, I wonder how a message of hope like Paul’s can come into our day when Athens seems to have very little hope– at least as observed on my screens over the past many months. Do the people feel far away from the presence of God? Do the people feel far away from one another? Can they see themselves as the offspring of God that can accomplish creating a new day, a new future, and a new world for themselves?