By Ron VandenBurg
Paul sends an email to his friends, telling them of his experiences among the Athenians.
(As the first lines are said, pictures of ancient gods and modern icons are projected onto the scene: Apollo, Zeus and Athena, WalMart, Canadian Flag, Oprah…)
Paul: (walks to computer to send an email, reading aloud)
To: Silas@fisherman.net; Timothy@missionsworld.net
B een wondering when you would arrive in Athens, this junkyard of idols. Here there are all manner of gods, hundreds of them, of every conceivable shape and identity. Around every corner, there's a different group worshiping something new. Worse yet, they wait around the downtown area, looking for the latest novelty.
First, I went to the synagogue (like always), where believe it or not, I got this response.
Athenian Jew: (facing the audience) Yes, Paul. We are very concerned about the… what did you call it?... oh, yeah, the ocean of paganism, but you might say that we're used to it. You know, we see the same thing every day. Lots of our neighbours, business associates and friends are worshiping those gods. They do what they want to do over there, offering sacrifices to Athena, visiting a soothsayer of Apollo or whatever the latest craze is, and we do our own thing over here. Everybody's happy, and nobody makes a fuss.
Paul: From there, I moved to the Agora, the marketplace, where Athenians traded not only in goods, but also in ideas. Lots of discussions going on here, and I had lots to discuss. And you know me, I talked with anyone who happened along. Unfortunately, the response was not encouraging. When I spoke of God…
Athenian 1: Which god is he talking about?
Athenian 2: I'm not sure. I didn't catch the name.
Athenian 3: He said son of God, so perhaps he is a follower of Dionysus.
Athenian 4: Or perhaps Ares.
Paul: When I spoke of the Law…
Athenian 1: What's he talking about?
Athenian 2: Which law?
Paul: ... and when I spoke about sin…
Athenian 1: I think I know where he's going here.
Athenian 2: Yes, I understand this idea of moral failure, but where is he going with this now?
Paul: But when I talked about salvation…
Athenian 1: I don't get it.
Athenian 2: I think he… I'm not sure. Maybe we should go and see if something else catches our attention.
Athenian 1: I just don't get it.
Paul: I couldn't refer the Scriptures, the prophets, the patriarchs, because all these were…
Athenian 3: (with disgust) Meaningless.
Athenian 1: Huh?
Paul: Some were even a little unkind.
Athenian 3: What is this babbler trying to say?
Athenian 1: I don't get it.
Athenian 2: Bird-brain!
Athenian 1: Hey!
Athenian 2: Not you. Him!
Athenian 1: Oh. Yeah.
Paul: But a door was opened when some heard me preaching about Jesus and the resurrection.
Athenian 4: He seems to be trying to proclaim about some more gods to us.
Athenian 2: Yes, and foreign ones at that.
Paul: Of course, all these problems are hardly new to a missionary. But whatever their skepticism, I had piqued their interest.
Athenian 4: This is a new one on us!
Athenian 3: You talk about some strange sounding stuff.
Athenian 1: Where did you come up with this anyway? Explain it so that we can understand.
Athenian 2: Would you be willing to address our council?
Athenian 4: We meet at Mars Hill, just northwest of the Acropolis.
Athenian 1: You know, by the Parthenon.
Paul: What could I say? Of course, I agreed. Here was a heaven-sent opportunity. My problem was how could I make this message make sense without losing all these curious seekers?
(Paul now rises from the computer and takes the center stage. More Athenians take positions left and right of Paul)
It is plain to see that you Athenians take your religion seriously. (Athenians
are pleased by this complement) For as I walked around and looked carefully
at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: To
An Unknown God. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim
to you. (There is a murmur of interest. Paul has their interest.)
The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'
Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone-an image made by man's design and skill.
Athenian 3: This man has good things to say.
Athenian 4: I think we can say that this man is a Stoic. He sounds just like them.
Paul: In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. (A distinct chill becomes discernible, as Athenians turn their backs, whispering to one another)
Athenian 1: What did he say?
Athenian 2: Ridiculous
Paul: He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.
Athenians: (Jeers, hoots and taunts break out) Are you kidding? People who die stay dead. Resurrection? That's nonsense. What a disaster! Who invited this guy anyway? (To stage left, many walk away angry, disgusted, mocking his message.)
(Paul stands alone watching the Athenians leave. He feels humiliated.)
(From stage right, unseen by Paul come two remaining Athenians, a man and a woman that we haven't heard from yet. They approach Paul and touch him on the shoulder so that he turns to face them.)
Darmaris: We want to hear you again on this subject.
(The three of them leave together.)
Copyright Ron VandenBurg, all rights reserved.
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