The book of Acts has much to teach us about being a church without walls, and this week’s reading is no exception. The church without walls moves beyond the comfortable, familiar surrounds and into the world. That’s how the apostle Paul ends up in Athens, addressing the philosophers and testifying to the “God who made the earth and everything in it” (Acts 17:24).
There’s a powerfully uniting message in this passage. God is not contained by a certain type of building or monument. God is not present only within certain rituals or traditions. God is not the exclusive property of one group or another. God is not aligned with any particular political party. Indeed, God “is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27).
At a time like this, when so many of our familiar patterns are disrupted, when we can’t access the spaces we experience as sacred, when it can be hard to know who or what to believe, I take comfort in these words from Scripture. God cannot be contained. None of our human-made containers – not just our buildings, but also our ideologies and cultural practices – are big enough, deep enough, expansive enough to contain our God.
It’s also a challenging word to hear. God cannot be contained. So what of our human-made containers need to be dismantled, broken open, or rebuilt to better point us to God’s presence? Put another way, what do we hold more dear than the “God who made the earth and everything in it?”
Regardless of how we respond, God draws near to us, loving us, challenging us, sustaining us and forming us to be the body of Christ – in all times and in all places – for the sake of the world God so loves. Thanks be to God.
~ Pastor H.