Showing posts from 2014

Footsteps of Paul

Before our final dinner together in a sixth century cistern restaurant, we gave thanks for a wonderful 3,200 mile (San Diego to New York) pilgrimage through Turkey, exploring the footsteps of apostles Paul and John, learning about the context of the early church and the impact of the early church fathers. 

It was a very special meal of Turkish food, laughter and stories. Pilgrimage in community is a powerful experience. We marked our days with prayer, scripture, sharing insights, traveling light, open to what God has in store for us and acknowledging those times of providence where we just happened to be there at just the right time and place. 
Amy and I thought it was awesome to be in Istanbul for our third time -- ferrying up the Bosphorus, crossing under the Sea of Marmara by metro, walking through the crowded streets, marveling at the sights lit up at night and sampling the baklava and dolma mussels.

I love introducing people to Istanbul because it is such a surprising city of contra…

Istanbul: the Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia was built in 532 ad by Emperor Justinian in just five years. It was an amazing architectural feat, a massive building of columns and arches built above a cistern of columns and arches. 

It was also built over the temple of Apollo and  churches built by Constantine and then Theododius in the fourth and fifth centuries. It was a symbol of a new era of Christianity in an empire that killed the Apostle Paul three hundred years before.

The inside is the church is lit by clear windows. The windows created flexibility in earthquakes, but it also lit the ceilings covered with gold mosaics. This was the largest dome in the sixth century, and still the fourth largest dome in the world. 
The gold mosaic ceiling--24 million pieces of gold just in the dome--would have dazzled with the light streaming through. Heaven lighting earth. What did those believers experienced as they entered this massive, dazzling space? What hope did it give worshipers, as they entered space larger than any…

Pergamum, Bursa and Nicea

Pergamum was an ancient city of power and worship. 4th century bc fortress walls remain upon which was built subsequent victors, including Trajan. A temple to Zeus where sacrifices were made and incense burned from the altar. This is the altar John wrote about in Revelation 2 "where Satan lives."  Chapter eight tells of the golden altar where the prayers of believers rise, like incense--a superior picture of worship. Trajan built the temple to Athena, goddess of war to credit her for his victories. He built himself a super-sized temple where the emperor was worshiped as Lord and Savior.

Here's the choice for the early church: worship Caesar who is all powerful, provides roads and services, defends against great armies and is here in this awesome temple. Or worship Jesus who is no longer here on earth, is represented by Christians who fear persecution and alienation from the marketplace, who seems powerless against the power of Rome. This temple was perched on the hill and s…


John was exiled for not pledging allegiance to Emperor Domitian as Lord. It was only because of Domitian's death, and a new emperor who was sympathetic to the Christians, that John was released. John spent 18 months on Patmos in exile, then returned to Ephesus where he died a natural death at 105. 
While he was there with his scribe Procorus he had a revelation from Jesus about the things that would soon take place. He wrote the seven churches all along in the same mail route as Ephesus. These were brothers and sisters who suffered and worshipped together. He could see the coast of modern day Turkey and wrote one day "there would be no sea," maybe his own longing for fellowship.

We think Procorus delivered the Revelation to the churches before John was released. Imagine what it would have been like for him to return to  his church in Ephesus, and be visited in his old age by church leaders from the other six churches. 

John, what was it like to see Jesus again?  How did you …


Our guide previewed our visit: Ephesus is a double site.

We know about the church in Ephesus from three biblical sources: Acts of the Apostles (18-20), Paul's letter Ephesians and the letter to the church in Revelation.  
It's a strategic location for Paul because Ephesus is was the capital of Asia Minor. All roads flowed to the Meander River, which emptied into the Aegean at Ephesus. A port city, the view from the sea included the awesome theater, where the riot broke out against Paul--24,000 people chanting “great is Artemus of the Ephesians!” The first temple to Artemis was built in the 5thC bc, so Ephesus was a famous place of pilgrimage and the temple served as the first bank in the world.
This was also a wealthy city with opulent terrace houses, amazing water fountains, 30,000 book Celsus Library. indoor plumbing, and central heating and cooling. The arm of the 10 meters high statute of Domitian was eight feet long.
Paul spent three years in Ephesus. During that time, Paul …

Pisidian Antioch, Hieropolis, Laodicia and Aphrodisias

We continued across central Turkey through valleys and farmlands, mountain ranges and lakes, exploring the ancient ruins of cities Paul visited.  
Pisidian Antioch is the first place in Asia Minor where Paul's preaching is recorded (Acts 13). We stood among the ruins of a 4th century church built on the sight of the synagogue where he shared the new and good news about Jesus.
“We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus." Acts 13:32-33
Many believed, but the Jewish leaders rejected them. This is the earliest example of "first the Jews, then then Gentiles."
It was all about breaking down walls of separation, welcoming the outsider, expanding comfort zones and being open to the new thing God was doing through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
It was a cold and windy day (we dressed for Sun), which made for a brisk, invigorating walk through the city where Paul and Barnabas were rejected bu…


We journeyed five hours today from Adana through the Taurus Mountains and the Cilician Gates, northeast to Konya, ancient Iconium in the province of Galatia. These steep hills were Paul's only land route between Cilicia and Galatia.

Along the way we stopped in Ulukisla to see a carvansaray, the three day way station for Silk Road caravans. But it's Monday and we crashed the bazaar. You'd think we were Martians. 

"Hello. Where are you from?" "California." "Oh, Americans!" 
What a surprise, and what beautiful produce and smiles.

Paul wrote his first letter to this region of Galatia, to the believers in Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. He was incensed about their following a different teaching and adamant about living by the spirit and not by the law. Circumcision, the major identifier for God's people, was the focus of Paul's letter.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith express…