Mandarin Sermon Translations

  • Acts 17:16-31 (32-34) John 1:16-18 May 15 2022 TLC

    The One in whom we live, move, and have our being


    使徒行17:16-3132-34翰福音1:16-18 2022515


    Cougar Canyon Stream-keepers invites us to put gum boots on and cultivate rain gardens in the ditches along roads that filter pollutants out of the run-off from our roads. This is a chance to work alongside our neighbors as we care for God’s creation. This is one way to meet people whom we don’t yet know, to meet them where they are at, on their own terms, as fellow human beings, caring for the earth, for the salmon, together created in the image of God.


    Cougar Canyon溪流管理员邀请我们穿上橡胶靴,在道路沿线的沟渠中种植雨水花园,过滤道路径流中的污染物。这是一个与我们的邻居一起工作的机会,因为我们关心上帝的创造。这是一个让我们认识新的人的机会,在他们所处的地方,以他们自己的方式,作为人类同胞,关心地球,关心鲑鱼,共同按照上帝的形象创造。


    In today’s scripture Paul meets people on their own terms, observing what they do, how they live, who they listen to.  Paul, perhaps you remember from a couple weeks ago, the one previously named Saul, who was struck blind by the light on the road to Damascus and is transformed by the praying hands of his enemy Ananias. Paul is now walking and sailing around the known world to share the good news of Jesus dying and rising for all. Paul has arrived in the ancient Greek city of Athens. When Paul arrived in the city, he went to meet people where they were at: on their job, in the street, when they were shopping, and on a hill that was called the Areopagus.  There, he took time to figure out what mattered to people. He started by thinking about what the Athenians were telling him.




    On Friday, the New Westminster School Board took time to listen to the hundreds of students who walked out of class and walked to the district 40 office, to rally against high school culture that involves sexual assault daily. As students expressed rage, carried signs demanding change: No means no! These courageous students shared stories of assault through loudspeakers, shed tears and shared hugs.  School board members, teachers and fellow students listened, met them where they are at. Social change starts by listening, observing, respecting their story, honoring their experience, and not ignoring their voices.




    After listening to the Athenians, Paul comes up with a new way of describing God, on the peoples’ terms. Paul doesn’t call God, Father, as Jesus did.  Nor the way the Hebrew scriptures have for centuries as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, because the people listening to Paul had no idea who Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were. Instead, Paul quotes one of their philosophers, Epimenides, and describes God as the One in whom we live, move, and have our being, who is not far from any of us, whether we are here in the sanctuary, listening on-line or watching the recording weeks later.




    Paul had listened to the Epicureans and Stoics, Greek philosophers whose ideas were popular in Athens. Epicureas was a philosopher who taught atomic materialism and argued against supernatural intervention. Epicureans believed the way to find pleasure in life was to live modestly, to gain knowledge of the world and limit one’s desires.  Stoics were Greek philosophers who urged living in accord with nature, which they understood to be ruled by the divine Logos, wisdom. In order to achieve this harmony with all created things, they advocated the importance of reason and self-control. Stoicism teaches the way to happiness is to accept the moment as it presents itself and not be dictated by our desire for pleasure nor our fear of pain.




    Undoubtedly Epicurean and Stoic philosophies are still operating in our world today. People drawn to scientific worldviews, like the Epicureans, would tend to write off Christianity by assuming that Christians believe God is a reality separate from the universe, somewhere “out there,” who created the universe a long time ago as something separate from Godself. Such a god would occasionally intervene in the world in supernatural ways, such ideas are supernatural theism, not the God revealed in the Hebrew Bible and through Jesus. So, Paul responds to Epicureans by saying, as your own poets have said, God is the One “in whom we live, move and have our being” every breath we take, every move we make is done in and with God. God is not far from each of us. The God revealed in creation and in Jesus is not some supernatural reality that watches from afar and intervenes occasionally in the human experience.  God is present in micro and macro reality, atomic and cosmic, continuously stirring up new life and possibilities with every breath we take.




    Stoics taught that it was important to live quietly in harmony with nature. Those who are drawn to the natural beauty of the B.C. coast, seek to live in harmony with nature, could find some common ground with Stoicism. This compels people to purchase items made from recycled material in a local business rather than a box store, to leave as small a footprint as possible, to travel by foot, bike, and transit rather than break down the ozone layer with more carbon emissions produced by vehicles. The drive to live in harmony with all created things has ironically been boosted by the war in Ukraine as the cost of fuel skyrockets around the world. We saw it at our pumps with $2.27/liter!




    Paul stood in front of the Areopagus, which scholars say was both a place and group. It was a small rocky hill northwest of the Acropolis in Athens. The Areopagus was not only a rocky hill, but it was the most prestigious and venerable council of elders in the history of Athens, which some scholars say met on this location. From the 5-6th Century BCE, it consisted of 9 archons or magistrates who guided the city-state away from rule by a king to an oligarchy (small group of people ruling the country) and eventually laid the foundations for a democracy in Greece. Down through the centuries, the Areopagus had evolved into a place where matters of the criminal courts, law, philosophy, and politics were judged.




    Paul’s fellow debaters accuse him of being a babbler, one who gathers up ideas indiscriminately and throws them around like seeds on soil. In fact, the Athenians were known by ancient historians to be babblers, spending their time in nothing but hearing or telling something new.  




    Paul names what he observes about the Athenians: I see how extremely religious you are in every way. Paul names with what they seem to value, to worship, to turn to as a higher power. I wonder what Paul would name about us. We 21st century dwellers can be religious about various things: overworking or being obsessed with recreating, being compulsive about cleanliness in the wake of the pandemic, or all about trying to accumulate wealth and stuff, tending to our own comfort without regard for the injustice of the world around us, or always looking for the latest idea that promises to make us happy. In all this groping around, we misplace our ultimate trust, which rests in the One in whom we live, move, and have our being.




    With Putin’s distorted celebration of Victory Day last week, to justify his invasion of Ukraine, we wonder how will the war end? While the UN is determining how many thousands of people have been killed in Ukraine, knowing millions have been displaced, what would Paul observe about Putin’s invasion? What kind of false idols is Putin entrapped by? He certainly has an insatiable hunger for power and control, taking it by force.




    As we hear news from Ukraine, such as Valentyna grieving her 47-year-old son Ruslan’s death at the hands of Russian soldiers while trying to deliver humanitarian aid to his neighbors, we have been moved to tears by the loss of life. Such news of violence is not just in Ukraine, but here in our own city, Kerrisdale and Surrey, several recent reports of swarming teens violently attacking other teens are cause for outrage. Could it be related to social isolation imposed by the pandemic? Parent Greg Shore, parent, and community member of Orleans, saying “Children are terrified to tell their parents, they are terrified to say anything in the community because they fear repercussions when they go so school.” Police say that it is important to report such incidents and they believe other incidents are not being reported.  It takes courage for victims of violence to speak up and risk retaliation. You may have noticed Dr. Bonnie Henry wearing the leather swatch during her report this week. And mine on my Alb here. Youth have asked us as a congregation to respond to such acts of violence by engaging in the Moose Hide Campaign…a movement to stand up against violence towards women and children. How might we do that together?




    When faced with such senseless violence, we cry out, we search for God, wondering where God is when such atrocities happen between human beings. The One in whom we live, move, and have our being shows up in the countries and individuals who continue to open their homes and provide safe spaces for refugees.  In the teens who speak up when the culture at their school needs to protect people from assault rather than condone it. Through families in Orleans who open their homes as safe havens. In the UN who is searching for evidence of war crimes. And through those of us who choose to learn and stand with those who’ve been harmed, publicly owning our role as protectors.




    As Paul went through the city of Athens, and looked carefully at what caught their devoted attention, he found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’  Paul used this altar as a springboard to speak of an unknown god made known through Jesus’ living, loving, dying, and rising. Paul references the Genesis accounts of creation without quoting it directly, naming this God as the One who made the world and everything in it, who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is this God served by human hands, giving life and breath to all human beings.  A God who is embedded amid creation, fueling life amid death. From one ancestor, one blood, all nations came into being we are all related to one another, breathing the same air. Quoting their own poet, Aratus Phenomena, (3rd Century BCE): We too are God’s offspring.




    The One in whom we live, dwells with us, amid suffering we inflict on one another, gives us courage to speak up when we or others are violated, the One in whom we move comes near to all who cry out, all who search. The One in whom we have our being, comes to us with tender compassion and invites us to come alongside those who suffer in fear.




    What’s life all about? Paul says where we live, here in Canada in 2022, in our neighborhood, in time and place is no accident.  God determines the times of our existence and the boundaries of the places where we would live, so that we would search for God, and perhaps grope for and find God, for God is not far from each one of us.



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