Wow! This past week has been incredibly rewarding, but also incredibly busy! Our Athens Vacation Bible School went over very well, even though we were forced to put things together much more quickly than we normally would, and had to adapt a bunch of the materials a great deal. But several children made a decision to follow Christ, and our FCCers did such a great job of working for God’s glory throughout the week.
As I shared on Sunday morning, we had people taking a week’s vacation from work so that they could serve as crew leaders at VBS, and others who served at VBS in the mornings and then went to their full-time jobs in the afternoons and evenings. We had others who worked throughout the week with horrible colds and flu bugs. We had families cutting out thousands of cardboard squares to make the amazing mosaics currently up in our church building. We had others who stayed late working on videos for the next morning, and still others who stayed until 2:00 Saturday morning helping us clean the building and cart away all of the debris from the dumpster area.
But as I shared on Sunday morning, I wasn’t impressed by what people did, because people can “do” stuff all of the time. I was impressed by why people did what they did. People can decorate to show off their art skills, or lead crews to feel important, or stay late so that they can feel like martyrs... But these people did these things simply because they were the right things to do, and the best ways to honor God and draw people closer to Him -- and that impressed me a great deal.
In our message this week, we cheated and briefly stepped away from our ongoing sermon series on the Book of Hebrews in order to welcome our visiting VBS families and talk a little more about the week’s theme of following Paul in Athens.
When Paul got to the city, his heart broke when he saw that they had all of the trappings of religion -- they talked about spiritual stuff, they had all sorts of temples and altars and idols, etc. -- but they had no relationship with God whatsoever. They even made sacrifices to an altar to the “to whom it may concern” god (the “unknown god”), in case they may have missed one. And that’s the ultimate example of an empty religion -- performing the rituals and the traditions without having any personal sense whatsoever of the god whom you’re ostensibly serving through the actions.
But Paul told them that he actually knew the God whom they didn’t known but served anyway. Where they had an empty ritual, Paul had a living, breathing, thriving relationship with the God who not only knew them, but knew everything because He had created everything. Paul went to where the people were (not waiting for them to come to him), reached out to them through what things they already knew (speaking to them with their own cultural references), and kept the focus squarely on Christ.
Isn’t that precisely the sort of outreach that each of us as Christians should do today? It’s not rocket surgery -- it’s actively caring and sharing.