Acts 17:22-31 (NRSV)
22Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, "Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. 23For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, 'To an unknown god.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find himthough indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28For 'In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we too are his offspring.' 29Since we are God's offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. 30While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."
I wonder what Paul would say in a similar speech to us: “Americans, I see how extremely religious you are in every way.” Then perhaps he would name how some of us are “religious” about exercise, or work, some about checking email, others about sports. We might “religiously” keep a clean house (though I’m afraid that’s not me!), follow a certain diet, limit our kids’ screen time, or—especially now—wash our hands.
Then I imagine Paul reminding us: these things to which we devote (note the language of religion) so much time, energy, and even money are nothing compared to “the God who made the world and everything in it.” He would reassure us that God “gives . . . life and breath and all things,” including love, without our needing to earn it. That said, God longs to be in relationship with us, yearns for us to “search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from . . . us.” And in fact, when we reach out in our own craving to know the “Lord of heaven and earth,” we discover God right here, with us already. Continuously. Devotedly. Religiously.
God, help me devote myself to you above all else, as important as other things may be. In Jesus I pray. Amen.