I preface all of this by noting we are not talking about diction today. If I would have more creativity at my fingertips when I needed a sermon title I would have probably said something about conversation rather than talking but sometimes we do all we can and subsequently wish we could have done more.
St. Paul is often mis-characterized as an argumentative, even obnoxious, person. Our Acts reading from today, Acts 17:22-31, suggests a very different picture. This passage is sometimes called the Areopagus text and it is where Paul entered into conversation with Greek philosophers and thinkers about who God is and if God is knowable. An argumentative person would not have comported themselves in the way Paul does. His words are delivered with respect and indicate a familiarity with what his audience thinks. He maintains the dignity of the people he is talking to while still making the point he wishes to make.
Is this similar to common discourse these days? It seems there is more value in talking at, or talking across, each other than talking with each other. I have noticed a strong tendency to devalue conversation in favour of an attitude, to borrow from one of my former professors, of “I’m right and you’re stupid.” It is virtually to have a conversation when one side brings this attitude to the discussion. At no time does Paul suggest his audience is stupid, he is there to ensure they know the truth . . . even about some things they may already know.
Paul’s willingness to maintain this respect is a sign of how seriously he has taken Jesus words that we are to love others. I have run across a witless statement now and then that goes something like, “I love them but I don’t respect them” which I suggest is literally impossible. But enough of me at a keyboard, give the sermon below a listen and let me know if I am on to something with this or if I have missed the mark. Just try to do it respectfully even as I will do my best to do the same when we interact.
“Is talking okay?” Knox and St. Mark’s Presbyterian joint service (to download, right click and select “Save Link As . . .”)
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