Aloha Friday Message – May 31, 2019 – Moving on UP.

1922AFC053119 – Moving on UP

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Acts 17:28-31 28 For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said, “For we too are his offspring.” 29 Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. 30 While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.

May blessing always be with you and may God bless you, Belovéd! This Sunday will be celebrated in most American Parishes as Ascension Sunday. The actual Feast of the Ascension was yesterday, May 30th – 40 days after Easter. (It’s also the “Saint Day” for Crucita whose middle name is Ascensión. The reading from the First Chapter of Acts is one of my favorite passages; I mention it often because the Angels tell the flabbergasted Disciples that “this same Jesus” will return again. Regular readers of this blog will recognize that theme, but you can follow the link if you’d like to do a quick refresher. Acts 1 is a wonderful place to deep-dive into Scripture.

Today, however, I want to spend a little time with the Apostle Paul in Athens. What he tells the Athenians is more than meets the eye – in English. We will begin with Acts 17:28a – 28 For “In him we live and move and have our being”. Paul is generalizing a Scripture passage from Job 12:10 10 In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being. Paul is using examples from not only Jewish Tradition with Job, but also with Greek tradition. He references a Greek “Mystic” from around 500 BC named Epimenides (epi-men-i-deez) from Knossos (on Crete) who is credited with something that is called “The Liars Paradox.”: All Cretans are liars. Since he was from Crete and therefore a Cretan (krehten) it is a sentence which says of itself that it is false, thus being true if it is false and false if it is true. The Greeks in Athens loved this kind of debate, and Paul certainly had their attention. We, too, want to pay attention to not only what the Apostle Paul said, but also how he said it. For that we need to take a little detour into Grammar.

The verse in the Greek text has a very specific grammatical structure for these words:

kinoumetha kai esmen
Κινούμεθα καὶ ἐσμέν
are moved and exist

What we have here is an expression with the verb “to move” in the passive voice. Usually in American English sentences with an action verb, the subject performs the action denoted by the verb. “I moved the rock.” This is called the active voice. In the passive voice, this becomes, “The rock was moved by me.” The subject in this sentence is “the rock,” and it is acted upon by me. Now, why is this important in this passage?

In this Chapter 17, the Apostle Paul, along with Silas and Barnabas, have really stirred up the Thessalonians – they got kicked out of Thessalonica and ended up in another town some 45 miles west of there in a place called Beroea (also spelled Berea) (beREEah). They found some success there, but when the Thessalonians heard about it, they sent a group of angry Jews there to further displace the Missionaries. Some of the folks from Beroea hustled Paul to Athens – a distance of about 325 miles! – to get him away from danger. (See Acts 17:13-14) Paul used his time to scout out Athens. He was dismayed there were so many idols in that city. Eventually he found one that really caught his attention. He presented the Gospel story to them and his audience even included not only Jews but also noteworthy Gentiles including members of the philosophy schools – Epicureans and Stoics. His approach was through philosophy – the study of the fundamentals of knowledge. This means, of course, that his arguments were philosophical in nature. “So? What’s the Big Deal?” you say. Paul’s statement describes three states of existence studied in philosophy.

  • We live – The physical creature that has the traits of life – nutrition, respiration, excretion, movement, growth, reproduction, and sensitivity.
  • And are moved – This refers to the emotional aspect of being a sentient creature; it is the ability to suffer and feel pain physical and mentally (and I would argue spiritually as well).
  • And have our being – We exist, and this is the elemental and crucial metaphysical component of human life.
  • With these three brief statements, the Apostle Paul illustrates his point that HIS God is so eternally Omnipotent that his creative power is the source of every aspect of human existence.

Thus he says that in God (the Athenians “Unknown god”) everything covered by Philosophy is brought together in one immortal being – physical, emotional, and spiritual. THAT really got their attention! It set them up for his closing statement in Acts 17:30 30 While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by ‘raising him from the dead.’

Now, once they heard that, some of the listeners called the Apostle Paul’s claim ridiculous, but a few engaged with him further and more than just a few became believers there in Athens. In this short passage we can gather much about the sort of man Paul was: He was a Jew of the Pharisees, a Roman Citizen, a scholar of Jewish Scripture and Greek philosophy; he spoke Hebrew, Greek, and Latin (or the common dialects of those languages). He was a pretty sturdy fellow as is evidenced by the number of times he was chased, imprisoned, and beaten with whips or rods. So we have a Jewish Roman who was multilingual and became the foremost Apostle to the Gentiles, and the founder of numerous churches. In my book that’s quite a résumé!

He finishes up this set of brief statements by quoting a famous Greek poet who was also a mystic, and states that “since we are all ‘the offspring of God’ we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals.” (See Acts 17:29)

It is my sincere hope that when you hear this passage in the future (hopefully this weekend!), you will remember what a brilliant man the Apostle Paul was (is!), and how hard he worked – and how much he suffered – to spread the Gospel. God grant that each of us can follow his example more closely. Then like Paul, and all the more like Jesus, we will actively move UP to be with them just outside the door of God’s Throne Room.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever —
at your service, Belovéd!

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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