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In whom we have our being

Recently, thinking about the importance of culture in affirming our connection with the sacred, with God, some words from Acts 17 have caught my attention, ‘In God, we live and move and have our being.’ (v. 28)

It resonates for at least two reasons;

First, it speaks of a reality that is already given, which does not require our intellectual assent, our vote or even our respect. It is.

Secondly, it speaks of God as being much, much bigger than our individual experiences and views.

In this era, however, the power of these insights is not as compelling or convincing as we might wish.

Ours is a world beset by a plethora of choices about what matters, about deeper truths. The choice is overwhelming. With so many options, it’s hard to feel secure in our commitments.

Moreover, with life so complex and continually changing, we often safeguard the sacred by retreating into our own private world, ‘It’s all too difficult out there, but at least I can find God within…’

I would go further: we have become so skilled at doing this that we have, albeit unwittingly, locked the sacred away. Unsurprisingly, we then conclude that the world of religion is relevant only to our private lives.

We hardly know how to speak about it in the public arena.

The future of the church, however, lies in reversing this, in discovering and naming the sacred in the public sphere.

To do this with any hope of being heard, we need to find a language that is both religious and contemporary. An important source is the biblical stories. How familiar are we with them? In fact, we need to be more than familiar; we need to inhabit them, to know them from the inside.

What would it be like to ‘live and move and have our being’ inside these stories?

Herein lies a challenge that is both individual and communal.

What personal practices do you find helpful in orienting yourself to the sacred? I recently reopened my gratitude journal. I confess that I put it aside for a year, not intentionally, it just happened. Reconnecting with it has been a joy. (At the end of the day, I write in it three things that I am grateful for. It’s a time of remembering and giving thanks.)

And the communal aspect of this challenge?

We could attend more intentionally to nurturing a culture in the church that reflects back to us the stories of grace and the Christian values that we cherish. When we make a point or a claim in the church community, could we not stop and ask ourselves, ‘in what way does this point spring from the gospel?’

‘In God, we live and move and have our being.’

What we point to is vast, generous and life-giving. It is. We don’t have to create it or even buttress it.

All we need to do is find some words.