Sunday, April 29, 2012

"Church" in Sardis, Thyatira, Pergamum and Philadelphia

Most Christian try and attend church on Sunday, usually just one. Today I "attended" church in 4 of the cities to whom John wrote letters found in the Book of Revelation! "Attended" may be a bit strong. I walked around what was left of the ancient city and then read the letter written to that church. Even though none of these churches had buildings back in the first century, I was often looking at some things they would have seen too. And I always looked around to see where the residential area of the city was and tried to wonder if somewhere there was the house they had met in to read the letter from the Apostle John (on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ). What a day!
Two of the four cities I visited had little in the way of first century remains. Both Philadelphia and Thyatira are limited to a block in the middle of the modern city. Sardis and Pergamum on the other hand have extensive archeological remains.
After finding my way into the modern city of Akhisar , I "happened" on a small sign that said "Kültür Park" and after going around a few blocks I found what I hoped was there. Just a few pillars from a church building in about 600 AD. It was closed but I hung around and within minutes it was open and I got the opportunity to go inside the gate. I didn't however, find "brotherly love" in this city but then I only stayed 1/2 hour and I couldn't speak the language of anyone here either.

Sardis (modern Sart) was unbelievable. It had a huge temple (of Artemis) which was 1/2 mile away from the main ruins, a massive ancient synagogue dating back to the 3rd century AB, and a 2nd century AD Marble Court of the Imperial Cult, and other "stuff!" During Roman times the city was over 300 acres in size.

The city of Thyatira is today the modern city of Akhisar and the ruins lie right down in the middle surrounded by shops and restaurants. Not much to see really but the ruins reminded me that there was a city here when Revelation was written and somewhere in this area a group of believers met and read and probably reread the letter until they had memorized it. Just wish there was a strong Christian church in each of these Muslim cities today. I took a picture of this purple flower (not sure that it is from the plant that they made a purple dye from in this area) because it reminded me of Lyddia, the seller of purple cloths who was from this city even though Paul met her over in Philippi.

Pergamum (modern city of Bergama) had me heading back west towards the Aegean Sea. I knew there were remarkable ruins here but I didn't realize quite where they were! I had to take a cable car just to get up to the Acropolis and was stunned to see what they had built up top. A temple whose floor lay suspended above a carefully constructed arched platform to increase the size, and then a 10,000 seat theater that was build on the side of a STEEP sloop! I've been to many theaters but never have I been as in awe as I was of this one (even Ephesus with its massive 22,000 seat). It was because it was on the side of a mountain with a valley a river way, way below. I walked down took a couple of pictures and then walked up again. Just saying that the part of me that comes "last" is hurting tonight! As I read the letter written to this church again I was not disappointed that the early church hadn't left me a building to see but that as far as I know there is no vital gospel witness in this place. The teaching of Islam finally wiped out the church here. So sad.
Tonight I am a hotel that is about 200 yards from the Aegean Sea. I went for a walk along the beach and realized that Paul had sailed down this very sea a couple of times in his missionaries journeys to "Asia" (now Turkey).
I missed being at church today and singing the songs and hymns of praise and hearing the Word expounded from the pulpit. But I must admit, I really enjoyed my Sunday visiting the sites of four of the first century churches mentioned in Scripture.