During this time of social distancing you may wish to use this scripture meditation for an e-conference small group or alone as a personal devotion. Give yourself the time to process the changes you are facing and the care you require.
What makes you happy? What satisfies your deepest yearning? For the longest time we assumed it was the accumulation of new things. But if this worldwide lockdown has proven anything it is that acquiring new stuff might not be enough. Consumerism at all costs is insufficient in the face of a global pandemic. A deeper, truer value has emerged. The protection of life, it turns out, has a priority over buying new things.
The same goes for us churchgoers. We put a lot into our buildings, but it turns out there was something greater that brings us together. As Paul says, “The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands.”
What are we truly searching for? What would make us content?
Beginning of the meeting
In this Sunday’s reading from Acts, Paul is engaging with the Greek philosophical thinkers in Athens. He had noticed, as he walked through the city, that they all have a common yearning for spiritual connection with God.
Now quiet your thoughts, still your body, and be open to Jesus who meets us in the reading of scripture.
ACTS 17:22-31 New Revised Standard Version
22 Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, ‘Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. 23 For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, “To an unknown god.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26 From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28 For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said, “For we too are his offspring.” 29 Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. 30 While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’
If you are in an e-conference, reflect on each question for a few moments in silence, then invite discussion. Help the group identify common themes and issues. If you are alone, you may wish to record your reflections in a journal. You may wish to share your thoughts, questions and insights in the “reply” space below.
- Paul said that we search and grope for a God who, in fact, is not far from each one of us. How is this true for your spiritual life?
- Paul had a profound spiritual experience on the road to Damascus which transformed his understanding of God. To Paul, God is close, wants to be in relationship and affects all parts of our life. Reflecting on your experience, how would you describe God?
- As you reflect on the past eight weeks of this global pandemic, what values and priorities are shifting?
Invite the people into a time of prayer. Ask them to quiet their minds and bodies and become aware of God presence and love.
Play a piece of music that speaks to the intimacy of God. Suggestion: I Arise Today, from the Pilgrim by Shaun Davey. End with a poem or prayer, possibly one from below.
When this is over,
may we never again
take for granted
A handshake with a stranger
Full shelves at the store
Conversations with neighbors
A crowded theatre
Friday night out
The taste of communion
A routine checkup
The school rush each morning
Coffee with a friend
The stadium roaring
Each deep breath
A boring Tuesday
When this ends,
may we find
that we have become
more like the people
we wanted to be
we were called to be
we hoped to be
and may we stay
for each other
because of the worst. Laura Kelley Fanucci
Prayer for Healing
God our healer, keep us aware of your presence, Support us with your power,
Comfort us with your protection, Give us strength and establish us in your peace. Amen. New Zealand Prayer Book
Spend at least 10 minutes each day in quiet prayer. If a mantra is helpful, repeat the phrase with each breath, “In God I live and move and have my being.”
We are here together, and we can do this because Christ dwells within us.