Call to Worship: Acts 4:11-12
Opening Hymn: "Christ Shall Have Dominion"
This song contradicts the sentiments of those who hold to Objection 6.
[PsH 541,TH 439]
Prayer for Illumination:
"Lord, why does it matter what we believe? Please show us today why it matters what we believe, why you call us to be specific when we draw near to you."
Scripture: Acts 17:16-34
Hymn: "The Ends of All the Earth Shall Hear" (Psalm 22:27-31)
[PsH 542,TH 368]
- We are permitted some anger at the cheap, casual, offhand nature of this objection, which is probably the most common objection of all.
- In general, we need to be aware that although we must take these objections seriously, sometimes they are merely a smoke screen behind which people hide their unwilling and unrepentant hearts. If you answer one objection, they come up with another and another until finally, in number 6, they slam the door on you.
- Concede that there are some similarities in world religions—for example, they all deal with birth, marriage, and death; they all insist on ethical responsibilities; they all advocate some kind of praying.
- Ask what religion is. Show that everyone is religious—everyone looks for some kind of God. It's part of our makeup as human beings.
- Stress the unique character of the Christian faith—we don't look for God, but God looks for us. In a very real way, Christianity is not a religion at all, for it is not a way to find God. It is rather a way of responding to the God who actually sought us out in concrete history, most notably in the incarnation.
- Note that Jesus was crucified by "religious" people. Remind the congregation of Karl Barth's famous line, "God's response to the entire global religious scene is one simple word: NEIN!" Compare Acts 17:27 and 30, "God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him.... But now he commands all people everywhere to repent."
- God probably does hear the prayers of non-Christians (cf. Acts 10: "Cornelius, God has heard your prayer."), and God's hell is probably less populated than we would make it ("The first shall be last and the last first"). But the fact that God may have compassion on non-Christians does not mean that all religions are basically the same. All other religions attempt to find God. Christianity, quite the opposite, is about God's search for us.
Hymn of Response: "O Christians, Haste"
An appropriate cause would be world missions organizations.
"We offer not only our gifts but also the specifics of our beliefs, our concrete allegiance to Jesus Christ... (etc.)."
Select some belief statements from the pope about how Christ works—and does not work—in the midst of the belief systems of other religions.
Replace the usual verses with a reading of the entire last chapter of Ecclesiastes by a senior member of the church. This is a gift for the young people.