This period of lockdown has been the longest period in my life as a Christian that I have not been able to receive the Holy Communion. Yet I have not felt any lessening of grace. As I thought about this I realised that through the Bible there is a very real connection with the living God. We call the scriptures the Living Word and there is a real sense that God lives in and through the Scriptures. We find God in the Gospel stories; in the letters; in the mysterious imagery of Revelation; and of course in the Books of the Old Testament which set forth the mighty acts of the Creator God in preparation for the Messiah. As a Living Word and as a means of grace they stand alongside the Eucharist. We have not been deprived of grace in the lockdown. With this in mind we turn to the readings for the 6th Sunday of Eastertide.
In the Acts passage (17.22-31) Paul has left his companions behind at Berioa and moved on to Athens. He is wandering in the agora, and there he sees an altar dedicated to ‘the unknown god’ and apparently gets into conversation with philosophers who invite him to the areopagos. This was the ancient council of magistrates chaired by the King Archon whose responsibility it was to invite speakers and this is apparently what happened to Paul. He took his opportunity and began with the inscription on the altar he had seen earlier - ‘What you worship in ignorance, these things I declare to you’.
Paul’s speech continues with statements about God as creator and redeemer, and he finishes with the punch line that we know God as a result of the resurrection. Mention of the resurrection provokes further discussion and results in some conversions. The Word has its own converting power; God is in the narrative, not just as a historical record, but as a living presence.
The Bible is full of interest, and familiarity will help us to appreciate this. There are many ways in which we may experience the grace of Scripture and it has been a positive experience during lockdown.
Revered Dr Calum Gilmour.