Tag Archives: Turkey

Today would be a good day to be at Ephesus

I’ve been marking final essays for my New Testament class this semester. So I’ve been thinking about the historical and social contexts of the first churches and the letters written to them that continue to speak into the lives of millions of Christian churches today. Its helpful to imagine walking in their shoes as they figured out how to daily live out this transformative encounter they had had with the risen Jesus. So if I could take a quick jaunt to anywhere today, it’d be great to visit one of the best preserved NT cities: Ephesus, a place where people long ago and yet not so different from me sought to walk in the same footsteps in which I daily choose to walk.

What did I love about and learn from Ephesus?

Ephesus today lies on Turkey’s western coast. It was then was the capital of the Roman province of Asia, an impressive city home to two amphitheatres, one of the world’s largest libraries, and the famous Temple of Artemis.

The apostle Paul spent two or three years here, living out the gospel among the people of this place. He preached in the large theatre and caused a riot that likely landed him in prison.

The church in Ephesus was largely made up of non-Jews, and Paul writes to encourage them by articulating who they are and how they fit into God’s plan for the world.

The letter speaks of the ‘mystery’ that has been revealed: that God’s plan is to bring all things, seen and unseen, under Christ. That’s a huge challenge when what you can see is the might and power of the Roman empire!

This revealed mystery is demonstrated in a completely unexpected and seemingly insignificant way: through a new kind of community, this group called church, where people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, socio-economic circumstances, and statuses seek to live together as family.

Seeing the houses, shops, and public facilities of ancient Ephesus helps me imagine what this might have looked like. I can envision some of its its practicalities and some of its challenges.

These were real people living in a real place, seeking to embody a new way of doing life and being family together in the midst of a city that didn’t quite get what they were trying to be.

Its a similar challenge many face today. I know I do as I seek to do life with my local church community and we try to be a new kind of family to one another.

Its messy and complicated and not always easy. We certainly don’t always get it right as we sit in the tensions between our culture and the gospel.

We hope in and live out of a new story that others may not think makes sense or looks true, and yet we see the transformation it is bringing little by little in our lives and our neighbourhoods.

And we continue to walk in the footsteps not only of the millions who have come before us, but of the risen King we worship and who is making all things new.

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Seeing things from a new perspective (or, today would be a good day to be in Cappadocia)

 

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I have a just a few (thousand!) digital photos from my travels 🙂 But the one above is what I have as a background on my iPad. I love the photo itself, but I also love what it reminds me of. The day that I had the privilege of hot-air ballooning across the surreal landscape of Cappadocia.

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This remote part of Turkey has a fascinating, alien-like landscape that is an amazing sight to behold in and of itself. What made it even more intriguing was seeing it from a new perspective as we floated above (and even between) it.

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In some ways it is nothing out of the ordinary, just rocks and sky, dirt and trees. But we spent a tranquil couple of hours in the air, just wondering and marveling at the earth below us.

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Watching the sunrise and the shadows play. Listening to the stillness and contemplating the world in all its varied splendour.

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It was a beautiful exercise in seeing things from a different perspective and these photos remind me that that is not a bad metaphor to take into other areas of life.

sunrise

With photography, some of the most beautiful and memorable images from around the world have happened when someone took their camera and looked at things from a slightly different angle, gaining a new perspective on what is seen.

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Some of the best inventions and innovations in the world have come about when someone dared to look at an age-old problem from a new perspective.

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I think seeing with a different perspective is a helpful picture of what study is all about. I love the insights I gain when I take something I know a little about, and ask new questions, or bring new perspectives to bear on it, and suddenly more that was previously unknown is revealed.

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I hope that in my vocation, as I teach and preach, that I am able to help others look at things with a new perspective. I teach the Bible, which doesn’t change. But we can always look at it and listen to it in new ways, and God speaks amazing truth when we have our perspective shifted, even if only ever so slightly.

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And in the end, I think is a pretty good picture for what my faith in Jesus means to me. I spoke at a youth group Q and A night on Friday, and one of the questions was “What difference does being a Christian make to your every day life?” My answer was that it completely changes not only the way I see the world, but the very way that I understand what it is to be in the world, and therefore the way that I am in the world.

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I have a new perspective on who I am, and how valuable people are, and what the purpose of life is, and what the goal of history is, and how I want to live all of that out. I have been transformed and I want to be a part of seeing the world transformed.

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Today, like every day, is a good day to stop and look at the world around from a new perspective.

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Today would be a good day to be at Gallipoli

It seems appropriate to follow up Friday’s post about what Anzac Day might say about Aussie culture and the gospel with my own reflections from visiting Gallipoli a couple of years ago.

Lone Pine
Looking out from Lone Pine
What did I love about visiting Gallipoli?
Crossing the Dardanelles
Crossing the Dardanelles

We stayed the night before at Çanakkle and watching the sunset over the Daranelles looking toward the Gallipoli peninsula was quite moving.

Sunset from Canakelle

Visiting a place which you have heard of so frequently but never really known much detail about is an engrossing experience. For starters, I found Anzac Cove much smaller than I expected.

Anzac Cove landing site

The whole peninsula is fairly barren and undeveloped, and just seems like such a desolate and strange place for our national myth to be centred on.

Looking up the hill from the cove

I’m not generally the most nationalistic person, but it was powerful to reflect on the heartbreak suffered by so many so far away back home whose sons never returned from this place.

Ari Burnu Cemetery
Ari Burnu Cemetery

I was also impressed by the hospitality of the Turkish people in welcoming us to remember and commemorate our story in the midst of their own.

The words of Atatürk, Turkish Commander at Gallipoli and later President of Turkey
The words of Atatürk, Turkish Commander at Gallipoli and later President of Turkey
 What did I learn from Gallipoli?
Lone Pine Memorial 2
Lone Pine

The number of graves alone tells the story of the futility of war. This is not a place for celebration, but for sombre contemplation on the darkness of human history.

Ari Burnu Cemetery 2
Ari Burnu

I knew we had a distant family connection to Gallipoli, but was not expecting to find a family name on the memorial to those who have no known grave. Certainly that gave me a deeper sense of connection to this place.

Close up memorial

And yet I struggled as I stood there to reconcile all the stories, the legends, that I have heard over the years, with the stark reality of this place. I’m not convinced that every individual Australian who faced death in this place was “staunch to the end” or “steady and aglow.” I wonder how many of them were afraid, humbled, and confused.

Lone Pine Memorial

I couldn’t help wondering how often Australians erroneously glorify this place and what happened here.

Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, Turkey
Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, Turkey

I had an intriguing conversation with my Turkish guide, when I asked him what he thought about all these Australians coming here to remember. At first he brushed me off with a smile, “We love it! We love you!” but when I pushed deeper, he admitted that he really didn’t understand it. That from his perspective it was a little strange, and that perhaps at times he found the way we spoke and acted while in his country a little offensive.

Across the Dardanelles
The Dur Yolcu memorial reads in Turkish: “Stop passerby!

 The ground you tread on, unawares, once witnessed the end of a generation.

 Listen, in this quiet earth beats the heart of a nation.”

It can be so hard to see things from another perspective, to put ourselves in the shoes of the “other side.” But perhaps that is the most important lesson of a place like this. How can we move beyond our own side of the story to embrace the truth, which surely includes fault and failing on both sides, as well as inspiration and courage, again on both sides?

The Mehmetcçik Memorial, showing a Turkish soldier carrying an injured Australian back to his trenches
The Mehmetcçik Memorial, showing a Turkish soldier carrying an injured Australian back to his trenches

This was really brought home to me a few days later in Ankara, where I saw this painting inside Ataturk’s museum. It looked so familiar … and yet the ones I am used to seeing come from the perspective of the other side. People who place ourselves on opposite “sides” and yet we are all so very similar, so very human, so very caught up in seeing things our own way that perhaps we don’t even notice that those who seem so different are actually very much the same?

Painting

In the end, at the going down of the sun, I hope we do remember them, all of them, from all sides, and learn from them all.

Sunset over the Dardanelles