Archive for March, 2013

Ephesus: The Arena in Which Paul Preached

No visit to the historical islands and area around the Aegean Sea would be complete without a visit to Kusadasi and more importantly nearby Ephesus. A focal feature is the facade of the impressive Celsus Library named for Emperor Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus and completed around 117 A.D. Once the third largest library in the world it housed over 30,000 volumes.The imposing front is designed to look even more impressive. Upward it recedes at two degrees giving the upper floor the appearance of being further away and hence the building being larger than it was. The style gives us the word “mirage.” The facility itself is a liberal education. The facade features four female figures representing what the ancients considered the basis of learning. A person having the qualities represented by the statues would indeed be well educated. They are: Sophia, wisdom, which is scholarly learning or knowledge; and understanding of what is right or true coupled with just judgment or action.

Arete, virtue, the fulfillment of function or purpose, the act of living up to one’s potential. When translated “virtue” it means “to be the best you can be.” I have always found it comforting to know God never asked us to be “the” best at anything, but rather to be “our” best at everything we do. Such a person would indeed be virtuous.

Eunoia, thinking, is an exhortation to contemplating, meditating, that is, well thought or reasoned opinions. It is the ability to compute using logic and reason.

Episteme, knowledge, is a sort of science. It is the art of demonstrating as proof, that is, the ability to repeat a fact.

On our recent trip we visited Ephesus during the day and evening. The stadium was dated by an inscription to Nero, 54 – 68 A.D. The long Arcadian Way leads to the Great Theater seating 20,000. Here the Apostle Paul preached and for doing so was basically run out of town. The truths he proclaimed eventually became the primary faith of the region.

Nearby is the traditional sight where it is believed the Virgin Mary spent her last years and is buried. Also close by is the Basilica of the Apostle John built by Emperor Justinian over the spot where John is reputedly buried.

We visited the city by day viewing all the points of interest. By night the city has an ethereal ambiance. The Seabourn Cruise Company, with which we were traveling, reserved the historical sight for an evening performance of classical music by the Kusadasi String Ensemble just for cruise members. Tables and chairs were set up on the Arcadian Way with the attractively lighted theater as a background. Down this street walked such historical figures as Cleopatra, Mark Anthony, Hadrian, Caligula, Trajan, and the Apostles John and Paul.

Ephesus was a port city with lessons to teach us. The Romans cut the timber off the surrounding hills and did not practice reforestation. The port that once was six miles wide and seven miles long filled in by soil eroded from the hills and is now a fertile agricultural area. When the port filled in the city died.

Still carved in the large stone pavements are circles dissected by eight straight lines. It is a design formed by overlaying the Greek letters for Ichthus, meaning fish: iota, chi, theta, gamma, and zeta. Overlaid they form the dissected circle interpreted to mean “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.”

In this way the faith once decried in the city is noted by those who came to embrace it.

Milos: What Happened to the Arms of Venus DeMilo?

What happened to the arms of Venus de Milo?

Standing six feet eight inches, she is believed to have represented Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of beauty, love and sexual rapture. She is thought to have been created between 130 and 100 A.D. on the Island of Crete.

Last week while I was standing in the field on the Island of Milos, one of the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea, I learned from an islander their account of her discovery and condition. While digging among other ruins in that field a peasant named Yorgos Kentotoas unearthed her on April 8, 1820. It is not known if she was intended to adorn the nearby Roman amphitheater on Milos or the gymnasium in which she was found buried. In that day a gymnasium was often simply an open field in which athletes trained.

Originally she was painted and adorned with accents, such as ear rings and a bracelet, intended to give her a more life like appearance. In her left hand she held an apple, the symbol of Milos, and her right arm was across her torso as though the hand was tugging at the folds draped on her bent knee. The golden apple is also the symbol of her being “the fairest of the goddesses.”

When Yorgos found her among other ruins her body and legs were in separate pieces and her two arms were nearby. He took her home and housed her for some time. When visitors would visit the house and ask to talk with Yorgos, they were often told he was in the basement with his beautiful statue.

There was no Greek government at the time – only people who spoke Greek. The large French contingency on the island desired her. Yorgos and islanders wanted her to go to the Sultan to help gain tax relief. A conflict over her destiny resulted. The French eventually drug her to one of their ships anchored near the shore in the nearby harbor. Significant scratches resulting from the dragging can be seen on her back by a close observe. In a small boat they loaded her onto their ship. The arms were too heavy so they were in the process of being taken to another French ship anchored further off shore when the boat in which they were being transported sank and the arms were lost.

Several years ago a small exploration submarine was used in an unsuccessful attempt to find the arms. They are still buried at sea.

Her story is a classic example of how things come apart when individuals or governments are interested in different parts rather than the whole. In our own lives things are more harmonious when all the parts are put together properly.

Legends abound in Greek mythology. One of the most famous ones related to Aphrodite is her competition with goddesses, Hear and Athena to determine the most beautiful goddess. Zeus would not choose the fairest so the responsibility befell to Paris, Prince of Troy. Each of the goddesses offered him a bribe. He would not turn down the bribe of Aphrodite which was to give him the most beautiful woman in the world as a bride, Helen of Troy. Unfortunately for Paris, Helen was the wife of the Greek King Menelaus. Paris abducted Helen and that started the Trojan War.

Muslim Riots

So there was a short Internet depiction of Mohammad in a way Muslims consider offensive and that gave the right to riot, sack, pillage, burn, and kill. There is a disconnect there some place.

First, a couple of disclaimers. Yes, there are some Muslims who oppose such reaction. They are a minority and I think even they will admit they are not as outspoken as are radical members of their faith.

Second, there is almost no reason to believe all the rioting started in the middle East on 9/11 was as a result of a film released a month ago.

The riots are a result of a large radical Muslim element who believe everyone who does not espouse their belief is an infidel to be killed in the name of their god. For many in this school of thought that includes other Muslims who do not believe as they. Those peace loving Muslims are in a vice between the suspicion of the west and the fear of the east.

Now back to the concept that the video caused the riots. If the video was offensive, did that give the right for such violent response toward innocent people and a government that has in many instances supported them?

Our response to the riots has been to give our troops more sensitivity training. Don’t show the soul of your foot in the presence of a Muslim, don’t accept anything with your left hand, don’t blow your nose in the presence of a Muslim, and don’t handle the Koran without sanitary gloves has been stressed among our military since the riots began.

Now consider the response of other faiths to affronts shown them.

Consider the “art” of Andres Serrano who depicted a crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist’s urine. It was displayed in a museum and called “Piss Christ.” The exhibit was sponsored by the National Endowment of the Arts, an agency of the American government.

Couple that with the “art” work by Chris Ofili showing the virgin Mary smeared with elephant dung amid a collage of pornographic messages. Still no riots.

Did Christians and Jews revolt when the Bible was taken from schools? Did those highly offensive acts give license to become marauders?

After World War II, during which Germans killed over 6,000,000 Jews, did mobs of Jews burn German government buildings? When the Ten Commandments given Moses were taken from public places did they riot?

With appropriate homage for the peace loving Muslims, America must wake up and admit there is a peace loving community among Muslims, but there is a vast aggressive element that not only desires to wipe Israel off the map, but to destroy the country which they call “the great Satan.”

Militant Islam

There is a similarity between the old Soviet Union and the modern militant Islamists movement. There is also a dissimilarity.

Did the leadership of the Soviet Union aspire to have world dominance? Yes.
Did every Soviet citizen share their ambition? No.
Do the leaders in the militant Islamic movement desire world dominance? Yes.
Does every member of the Islamic community desire world dominance? No.
Did virtually every American and citizen of Europe realize the Soviet objective? Yes.
Do citizens of those two societies today realize militant Islamist’s desire world dominance? No.

Back to the members of the Islamic community who are not committed to militant Islamic world dominance. They are in a difficult position. Many easterners are suspicious they are covert militants. Conversely militant Islamists distrust them because they are not overt militants. I see this in Israel a lot when visiting there.

Some few folks in America are harshly critical of Christianity saying Christians want to make America a theocracy ruled by Old Testament laws. I have known a lot of Christian leaders across America and I have known only two who expressed such interest. Neither has any national influence and little local creditability. It simply is not an issue.

Persons concerned about efforts to make America a theocracy need to become activists, but they need to realize the theocracy militant Islamists have in mind is ruled by Sharia Law.

I had a very stimulating conversation with an intellectual leader from Atlanta recently who said the current unrest in the middle-east has no religious basis. This he has concluded in spite of Islamic religious leaders, Mullahs, calling for a global jihad, that is, a Holy war to eradicate all Jews, Christians and other infidels. The politically aggressive Muslim Brotherhood is a religiously based organization. They are the ones who killed Egyptian President Anwar Sadat when he made peace with Israel and tried to create a more inclusive Egyptian society.

The person arguing there is no religious influence in militant Islam explained than “jihad” simply means to do a favor for god. If given that point the favor they are calling for needs to be considered. It is stated by militant Islamists as the annihilation of all Jews, Christians, and other infidels. Persons identified by either of those titles need to pay attention to what is going on in the world.

What is happening in Egypt is an attempt by the Muslim Brotherhood, a religious based movement, to make Egypt an Islamic state, a theocracy. Taking power gives Muslim clerics oversight over all legislation and imposes restrictions on freedom of speech, women’s rights, and basic liberties.

Arab countries are predisposed toward an Islam form of government and though we know a republic is a better form of government, we will never be successful forcing it on them and we should not try. Likewise, we need to be vigilant about encroachments by their form of government.

Let’s hope the present generation is as vigilant and dedicated as the one that stopped the Soviet red tide.

The Importance of Church Greeters

Greeters are the personification, the representative, the exemplar, that is, the church embodied. Their very presence is the first living impression of the church body.

Greeters need to realize they are more than themselves. They are the style and spirit of the church in human form.

Greeters are the Ambassadors of the Door. They are the gatekeepers in the House of the Lord; the envoy of the Lord of the House.

Greeters should be ever mindful their role is strategic, deserving of their best at all times. This demands consistency. They should put on their happy face before going to their post and not take it off. Don’t just be punctual, be early.

Appearance is important. Whatever the dress standard of the church the greeter should be at the top of the scale. They should groom themselves to look their best.

In business the customer is always right. In ministering every person should be accommodated positively. Regardless of how difficult a person might be to deal with always do so with a positive Christlike spirit. A “How may I help you,” attitude should prevail.

All should evaluate their vocabulary and develop it to include such expressions as: blessing, blessed, joy, love delighted, honored, glad, pleased, thankful, and thank you. Do not use trite comments such as, “no big deal,” or, “no problem.” “My pleasure,” is preferable.

Avoid stale cliches such as, “it’s good to be seen,” “fine as a frog hair split four ways,” and “so far so good.” If greeted by “How are you?” remember it is merely a friendly greeting not a request for a health report. Simply respond, “Blessed thank you.” Even if not feeling great we are all blessed.

Greeters should monitor their voice. It should neither be too loud or too soft. A loud boisterous voice is not necessary to give a positive attitude.

Use of a breath mint and faint cologne or perfume.

In shaking hands a firm, but not overpowering grip should be used. Do not squeeze a persons hand. Some hands are sensitive to pain.

It is reasonable that some greeters and persons greeted are friends. The greeter should not engage in excessive joking and kidding around with friends while serving while others are waiting to be greeted. Others might be overpowered by the thought of getting the same treatment.

Don’t tease children. Do make them feel special by giving them the same attention as an adult. Avoid touching them other than with a hand shake or fist bump. Parents will appreciate any appropriate attention given their children.

Give every person the same warm treatment. Be equally cordial and personable to the least, the last, and the lonely.

If help is requested see to it that attention is given the request immediately. If persons ask directions to a location have someone walk them to the desired place. Avoid trying to give complicated verbal instructions as to how to get there.

In advance greeters should study the forthcoming schedule of events in order to answer questions related.

It is estimated that one out of every seven people come to church with a heavy burden. Don’t add to it. Be a faith lifter.

Remember you are doing this on behalf of Jesus Christ. Therefore, be as Christlike as possible in all you say and do.