Sunday, June 2, 2013

3am Reflection

I am wide awake at 3 in the morning after a long day of traveling from Istanbul back to my apartment in Chicago. Perhaps it’s the jet lag that keeps me awake, or perhaps it’s the jarring reality of being back in a familiar place and yet finding my perception of home completely changed. Maybe you’ve experienced this too after traveling. More than ever I have returned from this trip to Turkey with a new appreciation for just how vast this world is (in time and space!) I can hardly believe I walked the same ground as legend… (wait for it) ...ary figures such as Paul and Alexander the Great.

Last January, I had the privilege of accompanying Drs. Menn and Rossing to the Holy Land, and as there were a handful of others who had been on that same trip as well, I could not help but reflect on how different these journeys have been. In Jerusalem and surrounding areas, churches and monuments were erected to commemorate the sacred ground. These holy places were landmarked and identified, with spaces for us to worship. Very little was preserved in its ancient context. In contrast, the ancient cities of Turkey: Priene, Ephesus, Sardis, etc. were all in various stages of ruins and reconstruction. We were able to stroll (or in our case, walk briskly) through the streets and imagine the context in which Christianity emerged. While the holy sites of Israel/Palestine honor the land’s significance to the Abrahamic religions, being in Turkey allowed me to immerse myself in the world of the Bible – the world of a subversive Christian presence. Visiting these sites has given me deeper insight into the churches and people whom Paul and John of Patmos were addressing in their letters.

Standing amidst the grandeur of the Roman temples, surrounded by columns that scaled 3, 4, maybe even 5 times my height, I could not help but be awestruck by the immense power and influence of the Empire. I am coming away from this course with a new comprehension of how Christianity may have been perceived in a culture dominated by the glorification of Roman imperial conquest. I am humbled by the early church’s strength to lead a counter-cultural movement, and I cannot help but wonder what Paul and John of Patmos would write to our churches today. To what extent are we participating in the empires of our world? Are we being bold enough to proclaim an alternative story?

I must conclude by noting that two of the most memorable landscapes I saw were not made by human hands but the work of our Creator. The hot springs of Hierapolis and the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia were breathtaking reminders of the one whose kingdom will never be reduced to rubble, whose grace and wonder surpass all time and space.

Grace and peace,
Sara Suginaka
M.Div Intern 

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