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And boy, did the public respond… Many of these little-known authors would be skyrocketed to the bestseller lists. Some, like Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil would go on to lasting fame. Others would fade back into obscurity. One author’s autobiography was found to have been fabricated[i]…
But don’t we all want to learn or experience something that’s going to change your life for the better, whether we’re Christians or not?
In our first reading for today, the Apostle Paul comes upon a group of intellectuals in the Greek city of Athens. The Bible tells us that the people there “would spend their time in nothing else than telling or listening to something new.” Paul, for his part, was quite intrigued by what he was seeing. He remarks that the city is very religious—as evidenced by all the idols. Paul’s most curious observation was an altar inscribed with the words “to an unknown god.”
What we see here (and what Paul realizes) is that there is a tremendous appetite for truth among the people. They are in search of a god that they have not yet found…
What Paul proclaims is that the God they’ve been seeking is already living among them. God lives and acts in order to be in relationship with human beings. God does not dwell in articles of wood, gold, silver or stone. God dwells in human existence. Paul then proclaims that all persons will be raised from the dead, either to live eternally in God or become subject to judgment.
In the end, some come to faith in Christ—and some don’t. Paul presented them with a completely different understanding of God than what they had come to believe was true. To some, Paul’s teaching about the resurrection of the dead was downright ridiculous. To some, it was simply too outrageous to believe that God cannot be embodied or contained in shrines or temples. In other words, Paul’s God did not fit into their “god-box.” Yet we can be assured that those who listened and believed were dramatically changed.
So how well do we know the living Christ? Do you “live and have your being” in him?
Even as we worship the risen Christ, we have a great deal in common with these Greeks in that God still remains so much of an unknown to us. We all hunger for the Divine, just like they do—but who among us can say and testify that we are being radically transformed by Jesus Christ? Who among us experiences frustration and even anguish because God feels so much as a stranger?
There are a number of reasons why God remains a stranger—and why our lives feel so much the same as they’ve always been…
For starters, we do not always like what he has to say. We aren’t prepared for God’s Word to challenge what we’ve always believed to be true. We’re not prepared for Jesus to challenge the ways we live—and perhaps dramatically change everything. We’re expecting Jesus to confirm all our long-held beliefs—and congratulate us on how faithfully we’re living our lives.
How easy it is that we keep Christ at a distance—and allow for our lives to be controlled by our own aspirations; by the expectations others place on us. How easy it is for fear to take control of us. We’re not always ready for Christ to challenge what we believe, or how we live; how we give, or how we worship.
But Christ lives inside each us through faith. He has since the day of our baptism. He lives in the ministries of his church; among our neighbors who need him most, and even among those who do not know him at all.
So transformation is never a question of “if?” Only “how?”
Jesus is always going to be drawing you deeper and deeper into the Christian faith—so be prepared to be spending more time praying and studying the Word. Be prepared for God to reveal truths to you that will challenge your long-held beliefs and convictions. Be prepared for God to send you into the world to proclaim the Gospel and serve others in ways that aren’t comfortable for you. Be prepared for God to bring changes to this church—in how we worship God and do ministry. This congregation must be intentional about transformation; to cultivate the presence of the living Christ both within our lives and within our community.
Furthermore, our hunger for peace and purposeful lives should not drive us out into the pursuits and treasures of the world. We must instead surrender ourselves to the loving hands of Christ who claims us as his own. We must give God the control of ourselves.
Change is probably one of the most terrifying words in the English language—but we mustn’t fear the change Jesus brings. Change brings transformation. Change brings resurrection. God transforms us and draws us closer into Christ by comforting us in our distress, challenging us to grow in faith and mission, and then sending us by the Spirit’s power to the works of Christ.
[i] Wyatt, Edward. "Best-Selling Memoir Draws Scrutiny." 10 January 2006. The New York Times online. Article. 20 May 2014.