Psalm 118 (Morning)
Psalm 145 (Evening)
Oh, those Athenians! They think of everything. As was pointed out in our reading from Acts today, they had created an altar titled “to an unknown god.” Okay, so maybe, as many gods and goddesses as they had, it was kind of like wearing a belt and suspenders. But you can’t blame them for not wanting to leave anyone out, and Paul, in a moment of clarity, chooses to use this in a positive way. Rather than saying, “Whaaaaa? Y’all put up an altar to a god you don’t even know exists or not? How stupid is THAT?” instead, Paul uses it to point out that he understands that the folks in Athens, by and large, are very conscientious about their deities.
You know, the Athenians were just covering their bases. Although I’m sure some of it was that they simply didn’t want to invoke some god’s wrath just from lack of knowledge of that god’s existence, I also think it was an attempt to merely say that the divine reveals itself all the time. It’s simply human nature when we’re not sure of something, to have some object to aid us in our mindfulness of that.
We get a glimpse of how objects have a power of transmittal of knowledge of the divine in both our reading from Numbers, where the people find healing by looking upon the iconic bronze serpent, and in our Gospel reading, where Jesus himself is the “object that is looked upon.” Chances are, if any of us looks around the house, we can find our own objects that convey God-awareness. It might be a favorite cross, or an Anglican rosary, or that Jesus refrigerator magnet, or that statue of St. Francis next to the picture of our pets.
The uncomfortable truth is even if we are faithful and feel we do know the presence of God in our lives, there is still much that is unknown to us about God at some level. Objects that we can gaze upon, or hold in our hands, or feel on our skin under our clothes help us to feel God really is gazing back at us in love, or feel the healing touch of the presence of Christ.
These objects aren’t magic–but they certainly give us a handrail to enter into the mystery of a relationship with the Divine.
What is your “go-to” object to gaze upon or touch when you’re feeling a little sketchy about the presence of God in your life?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid