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 but left "filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit."

We drove another four hours to Hieropolis--Pamukkale, one of the churches for which Paul intended the Colossian letter.

I vouch for Epaphras that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. Colossians 4:13

Hieropolis (holy city) is an awesome sight with a theater, necropolis (cemetery) with domus houses, baths and water features. But the most amazing is the natural thermal, mineral rich water that forms the pamukkale or cotton castle. This hot water made this a place of healing for millenia. 

Laodecia is most known for being the last of the seven churches:

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3:15-16

The baths were also divided into three sections: caldarium, tepidarium and frigidarium. Hot (Hieropolis) and cold (Colossi) water was sent to Laodicea. The pipes were so long, by the time they reached the laodiceans they were both lukewarm--a great image of not being faithful to God. 

This was a rich Roman city: the Syrian road was half a mile long and the city continues for two miles, houses with marble walls, and mosaic floors, indoor plumbing and baths, columned streets and marble temple. 

You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire...Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.   Revelation 3:17-20

Like laodicean believers we are invited to acknoledge our own poverty and lukewarm love, then open the door so Jesus remains Lord and we remain faithful in living as people making a difference in the power structures of our world so there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Colossians 3:11

Aphrodisias was a capital city of the Koria province, and a pilgrimage to Aphrodite, goddess of fertility and nature. We don't know if Paul visited here but it's another awesome example of roman wealth and power.

The temple of Aphrodite was converted to a basilica adorned with different crosses from different cities and the senate was converted to the bishop's residence. Each of the statutes and buildings received the mark of the cross as a baptism. The city name was changed to Stravopolis, Cross City.

I'm reminded of the radical message of the cross and the courageous mission that pierced the heart of Roman power. 


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