“Word for Today” – Acts 17 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

October 13, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

Apples to Apples 1It was a Mensa Select prizewinner in 1999, although I’m not quite sure why since the game is not particularly challenging.  It was also named the “Party Game of the Year” by Games magazine and has received the seal of approval of the National Parenting Center.  The game is Apples to Apples.

Apples to Apples is the ultimate exercise in loose – and I mean very loose – associations.  Each player draws seven red apple cards, each of which has a noun such as “Canada,” or “Spanish Inquisition,” or “National Park” on it.  One player then draws a single green apple card, containing an adjective such as “patriotic,” or “repelling,” or “frightening” on it.  Every player then chooses a red apple card to the give to the player holding the green apple card, trying to associate their nouns on the red apple cards with the adjective on the green apple card.  And some of these associations can be quite hilarious, if not downright ridiculous.  For example, a player once drew a green apple card with the adjective “greasy” on it.  I couldn’t resist.  I gave them my red apple card with “Tom Arnold” on it.  I won that round.

In our reading for today from Acts 17, Paul encounters what is perhaps the most strident opposition so far to his preaching of the gospel.  While in Thessalonica, some jealous Jews form a riotous mob to protest Paul’s preaching (cf. verse 5).  Paul is thus forced to move to Berea, only to have these same shady characters follow him there (cf. verse 13), once again prompting him to move, this time to Athens.  While in Athens, Paul again encounters resistance to his message:  “A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him.  Some of them asked, ‘What is this babbler trying to say’” (verse 18)?  The Greek word for “babbler” is spermologos, a word describing someone who pecks at and picks up ideas and then spits them out again without fully digesting and synthesizing their meaning, much like a bird picks up seed only to drop it again.  These philosophers, then, are accusing Paul of having a rudimentary rhetoric, not suitable for or persuasive to the more enlightened and educated likes of them.  Paul’s theological associations, these philosophers would say, are too loose.  It’s like he’s playing a game of Apples to Apples with theological ideas, none of which fit together tightly enough to impress these elitists.

Theological arguments are of a unique sort.  No matter how reasoned, intelligent, and cohesive they may be, there always will be some who will look on them with utter disdain.  They will always demand just one more attestation of God’s existence, just one more existential loophole closed.  Indeed, this is precisely the kind of demand that Jesus himself encounters while on the cross.  Even after a multitude of miracles, signs, and wonders, many still refuse to believe in him.  They say to him, “He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him” (Matthew 27:42).  These passers-by promise to believe if only Jesus will just once more verify his identity with a miracle.  But be assured, even if Jesus would have wrenched himself away from the cross, these people still wouldn’t have believed, as Matthew clues us into when he describes their request of Jesus as “mocking” (cf. Matthew 27:41).  In other words, these people were not honestly seeking truth.  Instead, they were sardonically scorning Jesus.

So it is with Paul at Athens.  Make no mistake, Paul intelligently and forcefully argued for the truth of the gospel.  Yet there were some, no matter how cogent Paul’s argument may have been, who simply refused to believe and instead chose to disdainfully mock Paul’s mental faculties.  They called him “spermologos.”  And yet Paul, undaunted and undeterred by their ad hominem attacks, pressed forward in his proclamation of the gospel.  For Paul was willing to be derided as a babbler for Jesus.

How about you?  Are you willing to be a babbler for Jesus?  Some will call you “foolish.”  Some will call you “inept.”  Some will even call you “extreme.”  But even as the Psalmist exclaims,  “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked” (Psalm 84:10), so also should we rather be a babbler for Jesus than wise in the eyes of the world.  For though this world may rage against the Christian message, it cannot conquer it.  For the Christian message is the very message of salvation.  And that’s enough to make me a babbler for Jesus any day.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my babble for today.  More babble to come tomorrow.

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – Acts 16 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – Acts 18 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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