Don’t know about you, but I’ve always wondered why there isn’t a ‘Letter of St. Paul to the Athenians.’
I mean, if your goal is to ‘make disciples of all nations,’ wouldn’t it make sense to focus on a place like Athens…the cultural center of the Mediterranean world? After all, we still study Plato and Aristotle today. We revere the ancient Greeks’ poetry and plays. We copy their architecture.
All those are things you certainly can’t say about a place like Galatia or Colossae. They were cultural backwaters. Their influence was practically nil.
It’d be like trying to jump-start a movement in modern day America by traveling to Des Moines instead of D.C. or L.A.
Of course, today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles makes it plain that Paul did give Athens a shot. He preached in the Areopagus, probably on the theory that if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. But the Good News pretty much went over like a lead balloon with the sophisticated, discerning crowd he found near the Greek temples.
‘When they heard about resurrection of the dead, some began to scoff…’ the evangelist reports.
And then there’s this intriguing addendum: ‘but others said, “We should like to hear you on this some other time.”’
I guess I’m not surprised to learn that those big-city folks found it hard to carve out time for Paul. I often get that same impression from many of the metropolitan residents I encounter today. They never seem to have enough hours in the day. Their schedules are packed…their flights are booked…their Blackberries are humming…and the narratives they’re willing to hear all have to fit a pretty standard pattern: politically correct and conventionally wise.
Maybe it’s a blessing, then, to live in backwater towns – where the rhythms of life are slower…and you have both the time and inclination to reflect upon things you really didn’t expect to hear…such as, perhaps, a God who offers us ‘life and breath and everything.’