Observing and Thinking

23“As I was coming up here and observing the objects associated with your worship, I saw an altar inscribed: ‘To the unknown god.’ This one whom you worshiped unknowing, is the very one I proclaim to you.” — Acts 17:23

There are so many things I can be thinking about as I go from one place to another. My most recent cell phone has an ear piece with which I am not entirely comfortable, but which nonetheless allows me to talk on the phone while I drive. So I can occupy the time taken traveling from here to there by talking to people. But when I’m not doing that, it is time to think.

How do I occupy such time? How do you?

Is it with worrying? I know that too often I rework financial numbers in my head. I have this unfortunate feature in my memory that allows me to remember numbers with horrible certainty whilst forgetting people’s faces and even the place to which I’m going. I remember zip codes from decades ago. So I can think about those numbers. Does it do any good? None whatsoever! The numbers will remain the same no matter what I do. Jesus said something about not being able to add a cubit to your height. Well, worrying won’t add a dollar to my bank account.

Then there’s people and my various dealings with them. There’s always plenty to complain about in the world, and there’s always somebody who has been annoying. I can occupy my time driving, or walking the dog, or waiting for someone by rehashing these events and getting angrier and angrier. But of course, that won’t do anybody any good either, and it will do me considerable harm.

I can also think about writing, such as these devotionals. Now this can be profitable at certain times, but not at others. In fact, you will sometimes find me inattentive and seemingly lost. You might have a hard time getting my attention. What am I doing? I’m probably composing some document in my head. In that you can see the downside. When I’m doing that, people and events can pass me by without notice. Do I miss the most important things, the things God really wants me to see?

Paul in our passage tells about a walk to a place where he could preach. I translated it “up” because that is where it is. I’ve stood there on Mars Hill and looked out over the city. But rather than composing his sermon, Paul is looking for the thing that will let him communicate with the Athenians. He finds it, too. An altar, doubtless not the most significant looking, is inscribed “to the unknown god.” And Paul has his hook.

What are you thinking about? What are you looking for? Are you open to the Holy Spirit guiding you to that one point, that one characteristic, that one hook that will let you help someone along the path of life?

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