The Book of Mormon—the Broadway play, not the actual book—follows the story of a young Mormon missionary in Uganda. He starts to lose faith, but instead of abandoning his church, he reaffirms everything he has been taught. He sings a triumphant solo which starts reasonably, “I believe that the Lord God created the universe.” But then it gets shaky: “I believe that ancient Jews built boats and sailed to America. I believe that God will give me my own planet. I believe that in 1978 God changed his mind about Black people. I believe that God lives on a planet called Kolob. I believe that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri.”
Some of that does not make sense to a lot of people. Some of what Christians believe does not make sense to a lot of people either.
Paul begins his sermon: “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way” (v. 22). Paul may secretly believe they are practicing a chaotic devotion to all kinds of gods, but their impulse to worship is commendable. The time that Paul spent looking around Athens turned up a curiosity to which he pins his message: an altar with the inscription, “To an unknown god” (v. 23). Paul tells the audience that he is not going to speak about a foreign god, but a god that the Athenians have identified and built an altar to.
God is not a stranger to Athens. God always precedes the messengers.
In a world of a thousand religions, what should we do? We should treat others with understanding and respect. We should tell the story of Jesus, live the Gospel, and trust God for the rest.
What difference does it make that God made the world and everything in it?
God who cannot be captured in shrines made by human hands, thank you for being bigger than I imagine. Amen.