22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 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. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. 24 “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 human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[a] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[b]29 “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 human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” 32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others. / Acts 17:22-34 (NIV)
On this sixth Sunday of Easter, we’re observing what’s commonly known on the church calendar as “Rogation Sunday.”
If you just cocked your head and raised your eyebrows, rest assured–you’re not alone!
This past Sunday is known as Rogation Sunday because the following three days are often days of fasting and prayer. According to Bishop Alastair Redfern, “The word rogation comes from the Latin verb “rogare”, meaning ‘to ask’, which reflects the beseeching of God for protection from calamities. As the Book of Common Prayer puts it: ‘Rogation Days are the three days preceding Ascension Day, especially devoted to asking for God’s blessing on agriculture and industry.’”
What sticks out to me most in this week’s passage is the Athenians altar to “an unknown god” (v. 23). Paul says to those in the assembly – “you are ignorant of the very thing you worship!”
When I read Paul’s words here I often find myself chuckling and shaking my head – worshiping an unknown god? Building an idol to something/someone when you don’t even know their name? It seems so inconceivable. But it may not be too far from our very own experience.
Let me explain.
The purpose of Rogation Sunday – the week before Ascension Sunday – is prayer and fasting. The purpose of prayer and fasting is to draw us closer to the God we worship. I would argue that our ignorance of the Almighty God is not so far removed from the ignorance of the Athenians and their unknown god–because in order for us to know our God, our eyes must be opened that we may see and know Him. When we first set off on a discipleship journey following Jesus, He is, in so many ways, a mystery to us. Unknown, but not unknowable. Foreign to us, but knows us well.
The purpose of prayer and fasting, then, is to align our hearts, our bodies, and our minds to the will and the person of Jesus so that we may know Him, love Him, follow Him, and do the works He has sent us out to do.
So I want to encourage you this week – as you pray and fast, ask yourself these questions and commit to discovering the mysteries of God you’ve not yet known!
Questions for reflection during Rogation Week:
- What assumptions have I made about God that may not be true?
- How have I interpreted the truths of God through the lens of my culture? What might the Holy Spirit be telling me about this?
- Has God tried to reveal Himself to me in a way I have not felt ready or willing to see or accept?
- Is my heart positioned to discover the unknown things of God, and the reality that there are things about Him I will never know in this lifetime?
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