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Arriving in Athens last Wednesday was a mindblowing experience. We had officially begun the last leg of our journey in the Middle East. Definately a bittersweet feeling. Leaving Israel/West Bank where I had begun to feel a connection with the people, the culture and the land was more difficult than I expected. However, the pace at which we move from place to place on this cross cultural pushes one to move forward and not dwell too terribly long on the places we leave behind. And so we moved to Athens and jumped right into "The Christian Movement in the Meditteranean."
The whole program in Greece switched gears completely from our Israel experience. The first day in Athens, Linford gave us a short lecture on Paul's journey to Athens, atop of the aeropagus- a high place in the ancient city overlooking the vast expanse it has become today. Following the lecture, we were given a sheet with various places to visit and some space for reflections. Aside from that small bit of guidance we were left to our own devices and sent on what one might call a scavenger hunt of sorts.
Over the next several days, we scattered across Athens in search of ancient historical sights. The acropolis- temple complex where the Parthenon sits in all its enormity, the agora- marketplace, economic and governmental center and various other temples and sights, are several of the places we were to visit. I was extremely impressed by the talent of the ancient Greeks- their abilities in sculpture, design and architecture were simply astonishing in the era which they lived.
On Easter Sunday we departed from Athens and headed to the city of Corinth. The ancient site at Corinth is supposedly one of the best in the world. I was impressed but what really knocked my socks of was the view of acrocorinth. Overlooking the sight is a rather large mountain and atop sits the Temple of Aphrodite. We didn't make it to the top but it was impressive nonetheless. Moving from the sight we headed towards the amphitheater across the street. And here we celebrated Easter with sharing and songs.
Never would I have thought that being in Athens/Corinth for Easter weekend would be so powerful. As we began to understand a bit more about the Ancient Greeks, Paul's letters including Romans and Corinthians, began to make a bit more sense. The Greeks were very much consumed with life. Living life to the fullest. Measuring one's worth in the society depended on wealth, power, health and beauty. The Greeks were very much obsessed with the body and the more beautiful the better.
What is so amazing is that Paul seemed to understand all of this. He understood their desire for life, prolonging it and gaining perfection. Which is why the passage in I Corinthians 15 makes so much more sense to me. The passage is about the resurrection. And Paul writes these words to a people obsessed with life on earth. But the amazing thing is that through Jesus' death and resurrection one can have eternal life. Death is no longer holding us back. Jesus won the victory over death. And I am so glad.
"Death is swallowed up in vicory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." I Corinthians 15: 54-57
Paul's wisdom amazes me and his life presents a great challenge for me. He was able to enter into a society so extremely different than the Jewish world in every way and share the gospel in a way that was applicable to the pagans. Amazing stuff. Had I never been to Greece, or more likely on this cross cultural that piece of the New Testament puzzle would be missing for me. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed being here.
I am looking forward to continuing our journey to Rome and following Paul as we go.