A flock of what appeared to be black-capped chickadees descended on the church property this week. (Forgive me, Mom, if I’m ornithologically incorrect here.) Tiny little things, just hopping all over the place looking for seeds. Peck. Hop. Peck. Hop. Peck. I went online to see if I was correct, found out that chickadees look very much like the birds I saw but typically are not found in this area, then found out that, yes, they have been spotted quite frequently, then dashed to the window to double-check, only to find they had decided to do their little dance somewhere else.
Theirs is the behavior attributed to the apostle Paul by the Athenian elite back in the day. The term “idle babbler” in Acts 17:18 is literally translated “seed-pecker.” The idea, it seems, is that some so-called intellects in Athens just danced from philosophy to philosophy, gathering up whatever bits and pieces of wisdom might suit them, and then cobbled them together to make “something new” (Acts 17:21) — worth a hearing, perhaps, but little more.
Of course, Paul’s gospel was anything but a mishmash of personal notions; his gospel, the only one worth preaching (Galatians 1:8-9), was delivered directly through “a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12). He preached it all, and nothing but.
Spiritual chickadees do fly around us from time to time, though. They will dart and dash through the gospel, looking for “the good bits” and ignoring the rest. But salvation is not a do-it-yourself matter. We sit down to the feast prepared for us — all of it — or we “make excuses” like the dinner guests in Luke 14:18. There is no in-between.