Today’s Author: Paul Sponheim

“ . . . so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him . . .” (Acts. 17:27a). 

In this “Me Too” age the word “grope” has fallen on hard times. But did you notice that, when speaking to the philosophers on Mars Hill in Athens, Paul claims that as creatures we grope for God? My dictionary says that to grope is “to feel or search about blindly, hesitantly or uncertainly; to feel one’s way.” Other translations, other words in the text speak of how we “feel after” God or “search for,” and ”look for” God. 

Well, that’s right, isn’t it? We see groping for God going on around us. As human beings, we seek some kind of value that grounds us and gives us a goal around which we can organize our choosing. Paul Tillich called it “ultimate concern.” It isn’t always pretty. A glance at the TV screen suggests gross goals like more sex or more money. I’ll mention a couple somewhat more subtle choices that find a place in my own family’s life. A dear older brother basically gave science the role of God in his life. You can see that on a global scale when the question of how to make a bomb replaces the question of whether to make a bomb. Or consider the phenomenon of addiction. Groping hands reach out for the feelings produced by the bottle or the needle. Maybe we sense down deep that these substitutes fall a little short. We might even join those Athenians and construct an altar to an unknown God. 

Isn’t there a sense in which, even as church people, we are groping for God? We are grateful for the ministry of Prince of Peace, but perhaps we agree with Paul that the Creator of a million universes “does not dwell in shrines made by human hands.” (Acts 17:24) We are troubled by how easily a dangerous tribalism grows in the soil of the absolute. There are those bible passages that seem to go in opposite directions. We grope to find our way.

Paul has good news for us. God the Creator is at work even in our groping. Saint Augustine, the great fifth-century theologian, puts it this way: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord. Our heart is restless until it rests in you.” We grope for some real rest that replaces our shabby substitutes and does not demonize those who are different from ourselves. Where do we go to get that? Paul has an answer; Not Far. More on that tomorrow.

Mid-week devotions are authored by members of our community.  If you are interested in creating a trio of reflections to be shared on an upcoming Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, contact Pastor Peter.