I’m interested in the Areopagus and in Paul’s clever imitation of Socrates in his argument. I like that he approached the Athenians rhetorically through an alley door they’d left ajar in their religious system, using their altar to an unknown god to lure them into the big T Truth. But honestly, right about now, I have a lot less need for what’s clever in my life than I do for what is real. And I think this story is about returning us and returning our religion to what is real. We have a way of wandering away from the real, both as a species and as individuals.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Sophie Pauti and I am a senior at Memphis Central High School. Thursday, March 12th was the day we found out that spring break was going to be a week longer. I took this as a blessing from God himself because I had been telling my mom “I’m tired of school, I am ready to walk across that stage and get that diploma today!!” Little did I know that March 12th would be my last day of high school. It’s like the phrase ‘be careful what you wish for’ and I definitely have learned that lesson the hard way. Since that day I have been quarantined in my house, sitting and thinking about what the future holds for me and the rest of the world. Will this pandemic affect the people I love the most? Will it allow me to go to college in the fall? Will there be a vaccine by the end of 2020? Will the world ever go back to normal? What’s next?
I don’t know about you, but when things are bad, my motto is that misery loves company. When everything fell apart with the coronavirus, in the absence of living miserable human company, right off the bat I read Daniel Defoe’s journal of the plague year from the 1600s. When we moved into isolation to save ourselves, the severe and bizarre desert fathers, the earliest Christian monastic movement, would take me 10,000 steps farther to choosing to live one’s whole life in a 10’ square cell. Times get bad, and I want the company of detailed histories of past miseries.
On Good Friday we lingered for a bit in the silence of Jesus when Pilate asks, “What is truth?” He wouldn’t… or at least he didn’t give an answer. What I put forth in that sermon was that we humans tend to mistake explanations for the truth sometimes. Or maybe it’s better said that we too often think the truth can be reduced to an explanation.
Salvation is a present reality as well as a future hope. First Peter more aptly describes these two dimensions as one by calling them a “living hope.” When Jairus said to Jesus, “Come and save my daughter,” Jesus didn’t say, “I’ll take care of that in the after-life.” Instead, Jesus went to the bedside and saved his daughter. And he saved someone else along the way.