contain the manuscript
that the Pastor uses to
prompt him as he
preaches each Sunday
morning at worship.
The actual sermon may
vary but this will give
you an idea of what he
said if you missed the
We hope to have audio
or video clips of his
messages and the
special music we enjoy
available on this site by
Central Baptist Church of Westerly
16 Elm Street, Westerly, RI 02891
Phone: (401) -596-4929
Check out our blog at Central Baptist Life
Hidden in Plain Sight
Acts 17:17-31 May 29, 2011
Many years ago, Len Royce, a World War II veteran, told me that this hymn was the
Nation Hymn of the Navy. He said chapel services on the ship would often end with it, as a
reminder that God was with them.
It is a great hymn and if you search the internet you will see that many additional verses
have been written over the years.
For the marines, this verse was added:
Eternal Father, grant, we pray
To all Marines, both night and day,
The courage, honor, strength, and skill
Their land to serve, thy law fulfill;
Be thou the shield forevermore
From every peril to the Corps.
For the Sea bees we find this verse:
Lord, stand beside the men who build
And give them courage, strength, and skill.
O grant them peace of heart and mind,
And comfort loved ones left behind.
Lord, hear our prayer for all Seabees,
Where'er they be on land or sea.
For the submariners:
Lord God, our power evermore,
Who arm doth reach the ocean floor,
Dive with our men beneath the sea;
Traverse the depths protectively.
O hear us when we pray, and keep
them safe from peril in the deep.
And even for astronauts:
Eternal Father, King of birth,
Who didst create the heaven and earth,
And bid the planets and the sun
Their own appointed orbits run;
O hear us when we seek they grace
For those who soar through outer space.
In August 1941, Winston Churchill asked that the hymn be sung on the HMS Prince of
Wales as he gathered with Franklin Roosevelt and others as they prepared to sign the
So why am I telling you this. The reason is simple: We live in a country which continues to
recognize the fact that there is someone watching over us. It is memorial day. We sing
patriotic songs. God is good. He watches over us and keeps us victorious. That is the good
The bad news is that less people today attend church and believe in the traditional concept
of God. For many people, God is simple a benevolent spirit that can be called upon when a
need arises. He is pulled out on Easter and Christmas and put on display like a Christmas
tree or an Easter basket, and put away until needed again. You wonder why churches are
closing and membership is falling across the country?
God has become just another idol in the pantheon of American culture. That’s why Paul’s
words here in Acts 17 are so important. Recorded here is one of his most famous sermons
and he is speaking to a secular audience that acknowledges a god but does not know him.
You want to know why Paul was such a successful evangelist. Just read the sermon.
Paul is standing in the center of the intellectual world. He is standing in an arena where
Plato and Socrates stood debating the questions of eternity. He comes before a learned
audience who expect great speeches and he delivers a message about the simple, yet
powerful, love of Jesus. He tells them that love is at once awesome, and yet very personal.
Paul can do this because he knows Jesus. Jesus isn’t just a name to him. On the Damascus
road he came face to face with his Lord. Everything he thought he knew about God was
suddenly challenged and reshaped and Paul brings this to his message.
Now let me set the stage. It was a different time but the people were not that different than
those we know today. There were two major philosophical camps in Greece in Paul’s day.
There were the epicureans, who felt that life was all about fulfilling your every desire… and
the stoics who believed that in seeking “virtue in life” you could become god-like.
In the epicurean mind, the gods didn’t care what you did. They had their own concerns that
had little to do with humanity. Life was short and you should be merry. Eat, drink and go
for all the joy you can get. You probably know some people like that today. Two thousand
years later and we have our Stephen Hawkings who believe that we are like computers and
when we die, when our minds crash, then we are nothing more than fodder for the junk
heap. So live, do everything your heart’s desire and don’t worry about it.
The stoics on the other hand, held that the gods had set the natural law in place and the
goal of life was to live with virtue. Nothing else mattered. If you did things right, then you
have your own reward by simply knowing you did things right. The problem is that it
became a matter of pride. You didn’t care about anyone else. All you cared about was what
you did. It was the ultimate in selfishness. There are an awful lot of people, many who call
themselves Christian, who live this way today. They understand that God is holy. But they
are so preoccupied with their own life that they have a total of regard for others.
Now Paul, like most of us, lived somewhere in between these two philosophies. That is until
the day he met Jesus. Then his whole world turned upside down. So he understood the
people he was talking to and where they were coming from.
I think that is key to sharing the good news today. Too many of us are antagonistic. It is
them vs us. They are bad and we are good. But notice what Paul does. He talks about their
faith and the fact that they worship an unknown god. That becomes his starting point. Then
he begins to tell them about this God they worshipped but did not know.
This past week I met with a couple who I will be marrying next Fall. She is a Christian and
he isn’t. He never went to church as a kid. Never really thought about God except in a
passing sense. As we talked about life and marriage, I pointed out that I thought it was no
coincidence that god had brought them together. He gave me a puzzled look and it opened
the door for me to talk about the god I know who makes divine appointments.
You see, I don’t care who you are, even the biggest atheist on the planet, has an inner
sense that there is something bigger than them. That’s why there was the tomb of the
unknown God and it is there in everyone’s experience. God makes himself known to us
every day. The problem is that we just aren’t paying attention or we are too busy doing our
If you have ever stopped to look at a baby… standing in line at Subway…
If you have ever taken a walk outside. Walking through Wilcox Park yesterday…
If you have ever been in love… today is our anniversary. 29 years…
If you have ever been outside at night and looked up at the moon and stars…
God is everywhere. My daughter has a picture of a little kitten on her phone. So cute. It
screams of the creativity of our God.
What’s better is the fact that god is not only known by his creative acts, he also wants to be
know personally. That’s what Paul gets into in his sermon that day. This is the God who
called him by name on the Damascus Road and turned his life around. This is the god who
called Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and set them apart as a light to the nations. This is the
God who walked with Mose and David and the prophets and spoke into their ears. Paul says
then he came to meet us face to face in the person of Jesus Christ.
What a great message. It is still good news today. We have a God who knows our name,
who has promised us a hope and a future. He is there whether you see him or not, he is just
waiting for you and me to call his name.
Our job is to be like Paul and point him out to the people we know. We are to go into the
world and reveal the unknown God for who he is by simply telling our stories.