Cappadocia

Amy and I have traveled to Turkey twice before, but this is our first time leading a group into Cappadocia. 

What an amazing way to start our 14 day pilgrimage on the footsteps of Paul. It feels like we're in a different world. The landscape is more like the moon or a scene in Star Wars. 

Hittites, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Turks all passed through and conquered. First century believers returned here after Pentecost and Peter wrote his first letter to encourage them in their persecution and suffering.

In the fourth century, Simon devoted 42 years of his life in isolation on top of a fairy castle, seeking time alone with God. People brought him food and were drawn to his way of life and stayed. The soft tufa volcanic stone allowed for monks and whole communities to create monasteries and homes hidden inside whole mountains. 

We visited a handful of those 365 churches (one for every day of the year) that once existed in the Goreme and Zelve valleys. 
It strikes me that carving cave space into apse and altar for worship (4th c) and frescoes of grapes and crosses and the stories of Jesus (10-11th c), were done with such beauty and attention to detail, as if creating was an act of worship itself. 

Cappadocian fathers Basil and Gregory, brothers in the fourth century from Nyssa, served as bishops and theologians. 
Gregory grappled with the relationship of the Trinity and the infinitude of God, concepts that shaped the Nicene Creed. He believed God was beyond our comprehension, so (1) we should only describe God by what he is not lest we create idols and (2) we should live in wonder. 

I love what he wrote about friendship with God: 
"We regard falling from God's friendship as the only thing dreadful and we consider becoming God's friend the only thing worthy of honor and desire. This, as I have said, is the perfection of life."

This friendship with God extended to times of persecution in Cappadocia from the 4th to 7th centuries. Living in underground cities--making strong wine to calm children during invasions, cooking only at night to hide the smoke, teaching in classrooms and worshiping in a primitive cruciform cave chapel three floors deep--they avoided capture.

There were 52 communities like this in Derinkuyu. Families living together for months at a time. This is a land of survivors and faith refiners. 

...you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor ... be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 1:6-7; 4:7-9)

Twenty times in five chapters Peter talks about suffering--
  • more deeply identify with Jesus,
  • faith is made strong and pure,
  • joy to tell about,
  • form a house where God dwells,
  • live lives that commend Christ to outsiders.
  • love and serve each other,
  • practice hospitality,
  • be confident in your salvation.
And he offers great encouragement that must have been passed down from generation to generation. These are all promises given to a community of faith, journeying together, learning, desiring to become more like Christ, even as they hid from their persecutors.

We are just days into our journey with more cities, ruins and churches to visit; more to learn about Paul and his companions. What a joy to travel with a group of old and new friends, sharing insights, questions and laughter, building community and deepening our faith in the one who "has given us new birth into a living hope."

Comments

  1. We are following you closely. I would love to be there. I'm a big fan of Basil and Gregory.We are praying for health and safety for all.
    Bob/Dad

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