Take a moment. Look around you. Notice the faces of people sitting near you. See the faces shining like the sun. Take a look at the offspring of God. Watch resurrection unfolding in the here and now. The resurrected Body of Christ here in this place at this moment. Hold on to the moment. Hold on to the thought.
Today, we hear the story of Paul’s trip to Athens—his invitation to speak at the Aeropagus, his comments there about the deeply religious Athenians, his observation of the monument to the unknown God, his clever connections between that unknown God and the God in whom we live and move and have our being. But the story we hear today is not the whole story. There’s more to it. A lot more.
This story of Paul’s trip to Athens begins not at the Aeropagus—that council of elders that weighed the merits of claims people made in public—but in the Agora, the market place where folks conversed and debated with one another. There in the Agora Paul encountered Athens’ leading philosophers. Some met his preaching with ridicule while others likely took offense at all his talk of foreign gods. Yet they invited Paul to bring this new teaching to the Areopagus.
I think Paul was lucky to get out of there alive. Remember what happened to Socrates when they took him to the Aeropagus! It’s easy to miss just how radical Paul’s teaching must have sounded to the Athenians.
Remember what Paul says, “From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the earth.” He compounds the problem as he quotes an Athenian poet, “We are God’s offspring.” Imagine that. Paul is saying that we are all children of one God. We are all kin to one another. Progeny. Offspring. All sharing one DNA.
Imagine how hard that must have been for Athenians to hear. Remember it was Athenians who came up with the word “barbarian”—a term they used to describe anyone who did not come from Athens. Imagine it—a barbarian using one of their own poets to advance the ludicrous notion that we are all God’s offspring.
I’m amazed they let him go on. But go on he did calling for repentance and preaching resurrection. That was the last straw. As Luke tells it, “When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some scoffed”. Then reports Luke, “At that point Paul left them.” Not a moment too soon I would contend.
Paul’s words were hard for the Athenians to hear. Paul challenged them—both in all that talk about rising from the dead and in his claim that we are all God’s offspring.
I sometimes find Paul’s words hard to hear as well. I struggle with the notion of resurrection. It’s hard to imagine. It’s hard to picture. It’s hard t o buy.
And yet resurrection and the resurrected Body of Christ are at the core of Paul’s theology and, more to the point, at the core of our claim to be an Easter people. In the Message Bible, Eugene Peterson has Paul saying at one point, “It’s resurrection, resurrection, always resurrection, that undergirds what I do and say, the way I live” (431).
Resurrection—the hope that is in us. The hope that the death dealing powers we encounter in life don’t have the final say.
Resurrection—the promise that in every one of us is the seed of resurrection.
Resurrection—not only a hope, not only promise, but a way of being in this world.
Resurrection happens every time people decide in favor of justice, every time people live out of love for all of God’s creation, every time we live out our kinship with God and with one another seeing in the person standing before us a member of the resurrected body of Christ.
Thomas Merton once said, “In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we are total strangers.” He went on to say, “…they are all walking around shining like the sun.” He was seeing seeds of resurrection.
Look around. See the seeds of resurrection.