The Scripture Readings this week are:
- 1 Peter 3:13-16
- Psalm 66 (VU p.784)
- Acts 17:16-34
The Sermon Title is Cosmopolitan Faith
Early Thoughts: How do we share our faith in a world where there are so many options? Well we could do worse than model Paul.
Paul is best known as the (somewhat self-appointed) "Apostle to the Gentiles". The stories we have of him tell of how he travelled all around the Eastern end of the Mediterranean spreading the Gospel (Good News) of the Risen Christ. Here in this passage from Acts we see how did this in Athens.
WHat is most notable is that Paul is willing to meet people where they are at. He speaks to them in a "language" that they understand. He relates the Gospel of hope he has to share with their life and (perhaps more importantly in Athens) philosophy. HE is invited/hauled in front of the intelligentsia to share his position and he does so respectfully. At the end we are told that some scoffed, some said "we will tak about this again" and some joined.
Some people have suggested that the world of 2011 is, in some ways, much more like the world in which Paul lived and ministered that the world of 1911. This may be particularly true when we come to the area of religion and spirituality. Paul could not assume that his audience would know the story of his faith--neither can we. Paul could (indeed had to) assume that his audience would include people froma variety of faith and philosophical background--so can (should?) we. The Roman Empire was a very Cosmopolitan (citizen of the world, belonging to the wider world) environment, it was fed by ideas from all around the Mediterranean. Today's global village is much the same.
And so we once again have to understand how we share our faith, our story, our hope in a world which is much less homgenous than the world our grandparents knew. Here is one person's advice to those who are preaching in this environment:
In many respects we may be preaching to similar audiences these days. The traditional elements of the biblical narratives may be familiar, but the religious meanings and interpretations beyond the biblical records are not so familiar or may need to be updated. The need to open the meaning of religious experiences as they have come to us through the study of the scriptures, preparation of sermons, prayer and other elements of worship is the essence of our homiletical task. Like Paul, we need to plumb the depths of our own religious experiences, then use the best skills of rhetoric that we have learned to convey the meaning of those experiences so that others may gain insight and meaning from what we say from the pulpit.
SO this Sunday we will explore what it means to have a cosmopolitan faith. But don't worry--we won't read from the magazine of that name.