It’s been three (or is it four?) days since returning to the USA. It is good to be home again, but I still wake up in the morning wondering what exciting sight we will see today. I’ve managed to catch a nasty cold, the result of too many hours without sleep, I’m sure. This was surely the trip of a lifetime, but there were many late night arrivals and early wake-up calls. My wonderful plan to share this trip via this website turned out to be much more difficult than I imaginged. Getting to dinner at 9 and 10 o’clock made any sort of reflection out of the question, and more often the internet was either not available or too complicated to navigate.
I have not uploaded my pictures yet, as I have been coming home and going right to bed, getting up and going to work. When I look at the pictures on my camera, I see ancient ruins. It is hard to tell them apart. We saw so much, that it will take a while to get it all straight in our minds. Several things stand out for me:
The day we stopped for groceries – wine and juice and Turkish Yellow Cheese and fresh bread from Philadelphia – because we had very little time for a restaurant lunch if we were to see Heiropolis, Laodecia and Ephesus all in the same day. We stopped along the road to buy local grapes which were ready to become Sultana Raisins, and then parked outside a small tea shop on a backroad in the country to eat our lunch. We thanked God for such bounty and ate it all, finishing with Turkish tea, before hustling off to Ephesus at the end of the day.
The ruins at Ephesus in the evening after all the cruise ships had left the harbor and the crowds gone away. We virtually had the site to ourselves to explore. As you walk into the beautifully restored city on the marble road, you turn to the right and the whole town opens out in front of you. Temples and shops line the marble avenue and at the bottom of the hill is one of the most handsome facades in ancient history – the Library of Ephesus. The evening light softened every curve and detail. It was perfect.
I told you about Phillipi and our Affirmation of Baptism in the river where Lydia was the first Christian Baptism in Europe. The baptistry was exquisite.
The Acropolis in Athens with the Parthenon and the Temple of Athena Nike and the Erektheum took my breath away. I can barely explain how beautiful it is, especially at night, lighted over the modern city. These are buildings I have waited a lifetime to see in person.
The Church of St Sophia in Istanbul, which was the first big church in Christendom, and has been through so many iterations – mosque, museum – is a building which I have wanted to see since my first Art History class in high school. It did not disappoint – a truly magnificent space.
Standing on the ruins of Laodecia with the remains of the hot springs of Heiropolis off to the left and the cold mountain creek of Colossae off to the right, and hearing the guide remind us the judgement against the Church of Laodecia “you are neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm. I will spit you out of my mouth.” “You can’t drink lukewarm water,” he said, “it isn’t safe.”
Our reflections most nights were far-ranging and often a deeply satisfying opportunity to process our thoughts and observations, but the reflections I remember most were the discussion of Ephesians and the Theology of the Cross on the bus while our guide and the bus driver were shopping for our picnic groceries. We started the trip with a Bible verse each day from the books of St Paul written to the congregations we were visiting that day. Then as we drove to the sites of the Seven Churches from Revelation, we read the letter to that church before we got there. One afternoon, Ken Erickson, the husband of our tour organizer and retired English Professor from Linfield College shared some of his own reflection on Gerard Manely Hopkins poem “Windhover.” He said that the poem kept coming back to him through the day, and explained that it was the first poem of Hopkins that he’d memorized. We urged him to recite the whole poem for us. Although he suddenly became quite self-concious and emotional, he recited it all. We were silent. It was so beautiful and perfect for the moment.
To Christ our Lord
I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstacy! Then off, off forth on wing.
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
No wonder of it: sheer plod makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.