Last night, we made our way from Ephesus to the city of Bergama and the site of the ancient city of Pergamum. We spent our whole day there, the ruin of the ancient hospital below and the acropolis high on the hill above Bergama. There are elections happening here in Turkey in a week or so and Prime Mininister Erdogan was having a political rally in Bergama today. It was interesting to learn about the ancient political and social history of this area while hearing the sounds of the current political realities rising up to where we were walking.
Today was also rainy – unusually early rainy season this year. The rain held off to a light sprinkle until mid afternoon, when it grew steadily worse. We were prepared as a group and stuck it out, but RVL did arrange a different way to reach the acropolis. We actually took a gondola today! Unheard of on an RVL trip where the most difficult route up is standard. He asked us to not let the word get out 🙂
Pergamum is another fascinating place. In its heyday, which included the first century AD during the time of the apostles Paul and John, it was where the Roman Governor was seated. And it is the home to a number of significant temples. We spent a lot of time unpacking the practices around the worship of Asklepios – the god of healing, Athena – the god of the mind/truth, and Dionysus, the god of wine and theatre (leisure).
It is stunning to see the parallels between this ancient culture and our own. Their strengths are our strengths and their weaknesses and follies are ours as well.
But even more overwhelming are how many of the beliefs, practices and teachings around these gods are mirrored in Scripture: Virgin birth. God in human form. Water to wine. Death to life after three days. Healing for an official’s family. “I am the resurrection and the life.” And the list just goes on and on. The story of a benevolent divine figure who extended grace and healing to his followers was not new to these listeners. They had that same story in their myth of Asklepios. BUT our God spoke into that story with His own, and a power much greater.
It just struck us how Jesus came into this world and communicated His message so clearly that He is truly Lord over all. He confronts the deceptions and evil of our world with love, mercy and grace. And truly, the main instrument He uses to show that His Kingdom is here is through us. Through the way we love each other and love the world around us.
We have a lot to absorb from today. But our faith and confidence in our amazing God continues to grow and grow.