Wow, today was a crazy start. We were given a chance to sleep in for an extra hour this morning (alarm set for 6:45 – yeah!). What we didn’t realize was that the current prime minister had delayed the change from daylight savings time until after the election. Our phones and other electronic devices didn’t know either, and so many of our phones moved the time an hour back when they shouldn’t have. In any case, at least half the group slept in and scrambled to get to the bus, including us Faith folks. Once we got everyone together and on the bus, we made the short drive to Hieropolis, our first stop and were assured by our guide that we were permitted to enter the grounds the back way, over a fence. So, the 40 of us hopped the fence and followed RVL as we always do. However, no one informed the guards. We heard whistles and yelling and were told to stop where we were. A supervisor was called and came riding in on his motorcycle. After a few tense moments, we were told to leave the grounds, so we hopped the fence again, got back on the bus and re-entered through the front gate. Quite a start!
The day was very interesting. Much of the teaching felt like good review of the concepts that we have been learning over the course of our trip. Hieropolis was built on a hot spring which still functions today and we learned about the faithfulness of Epaphras and the disciple Philip in bringing the Good News to this city. We stood in the ruins of a 4th C church dedicated to Philip and heard the traditional account of his martyrdom, an unusually cruel and barbaric death at the hands of the Romans – along with the assault and crucifixion of his 7 daughters, simply because they refused to ackknowledge Emperor Domitian as the lord of all. We couldn’t help but think about our own witness and courage in standing strong for Jesus.
From there, we traveled to the site of Colossae. It is still completely unexcavated, but it was good to get a sense of where the city was, its cultural and political context and be reminded of the letter that Paul writes to Philemon, a slave owner from Colossae, to convince him to receive his runaway slave Onesimus as a brother in Christ.
Our final stop was Laodicea. This is an active excavation site, and it is interesting to see the equipment and work in progress. What they have found is impressive. But the most impressive of all was a small set of carvings on a marble pillar. The carvings showed a cross carved above a lit menorah. A beautiful symbol of the church growing out of its Jewish roots. And for us, a poignant way to capture what we have experienced so powerfully so far–how our faith is so deepened when we embrace the Jewish roots of our faith. We have been grafted into the line of Abraham. It is a gift of amazing grace.
Tomorrow we hit the road an hour earlier than usual (5 am wakeup call!). And hope our clocks don’t let us down! Below is a picture of our Canadian travelers in the church of Philip the Martyr in Hieropolis.