Experiential God

Sermon 18 May 2014   (Riverpalooza)          Acts 17:16-31

Today in worship, everyone is seated around tables.  Each table receives a paper bag that contains a few random objects. Their instructions are to feel inside the bag and describe what they feel.

2116848_f520Today we find Paul waiting for Silas and Timothy to arrive in Athens.  Athens is where all the thinkers are – the philosophers.  And while Paul doesn’t seem to be there to tell people about Jesus, he just can’t help himself.  He finds an altar to an unknown God and, instead of dismissing their gods, smashing their idols, he tells them about God, capital G, using words from their poets, using the common ground they share of every day living. Sort of like me telling you about a Kanye West song that pointed to God.

Instead of an unknown god, he tells them about the God who orders time and space.

Instead of an unknown god, he tells them about the God who creates the likes of you and me.

Instead of an unknown god who is far away, he tells them about the God who is always near, even if we’re not sure.

Instead of an unknown god, he tells them about the God who comes to us in flesh and who death can’t even defeat.

This is who we are called to follow.  We are called to follow God out into the world – a God who death cannot destroy. A God who is always near, who created us and re-creates us.

blind-men-and-elephantAnd each of our experiences of God – how it is we know this known and yet mysteriously unknowable God – can be staggeringly different.  Just like the activity you did – feeling inside the bag and describing what you felt.  We all have different experiences of knowing God – what we’ve witnessed and what’s unseen. 





ry=400 2Some of us know God in hospital staff and at the graveside. Some of us know God at school and in good friends.  Some of us know God to be merciful and gracious. Some of us have seen God show up in the midst of cancer and divorce; of births and anniversaries; of diagnoses and decline. Some of us are just not sure at all how we’ve experienced God.


It’s at the end of Paul’s sermon that he points to the risen Christ, the resurrected Jesus.  The one who shows up spiritually. The one who shows up in people in our every day lives.  The one we follow out into the world. The one who transforms our lives.

This is a God who is not far away but near.  And we are God’s offspring, sent out in the name of God, risen in Jesus Christ.