The Necropolis at Hierapolis
“A good name is better than a good ointment,
And the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.
It is better to go to a house of mourning
Than to go to a house of feasting,
Because that is the end of every man,
And the living takes it to heart.”
Death is a part of living and the start of our eternal life, and that is why it is better to go to a house of mourning- The bible is full of stories of people who start well and then tank at the end. How will I finish? In order to finish well I need to plan for it and live my life with the ending in mind. This lesson was particularly powerful for me because earlier that day at devotionals, I shared with the group that my Nana was in the last days of her life and would likely die while we were in Turkey. Later that day, one of my dear friends on the trip saw on Facebook that my Nana had died and was able to share the news with me. I got to be sad with Jenn and Jesse, grieve the loss of Nana, but also think about her death in light of the lessons we’d learned that morning. The Lord was so gracious that day.
John 12:24-25, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in the world will keep it for eternal life.”
For grain to produce fruit, the outer shell has to decompose. But in it’s death, it reproduces and bears fruit. I want my life to be one that bears much fruit! How will I live so that becomes a reality?
The Lukewarm water of Laodicea
Laodicea is located right in between two other major cities, Colossae and Hieropolis. Hieropolis was known for its mineral hot springs and many people traveled great distances to soothe their tired, weary and sick bodies in the pools there. At Colossae, its a completely different picture. Near Colossae, there runs a stream that is fed from the nearby ice-capped mountains. This water is piercingly cold, refreshing and good for a thriving city. In Laodicea, they could only wish for such resources. Without a nearby water source, the Roman architects and engineers built massive aquaducts and water towers to direct water to the city. However, because of the high mineral content of the water, it corroded their pipes and was known for its awful taste. The water was neither the cool refreshing water of Colossae, or the warm soothing water of Hieropolis. It was just lukewarm. Their very best efforts to remedy the water simply weren’t enough.
Revelation 3:15-16, “‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. ”
The church at Laodicea had fallen into the patterns that so many of us easily do. Their city was wealthy and known for its strength, great medicine and rich textile industry and there is no doubt that the church benefitted from such a rich, comfortable lifestyle. Any problem the Laodiceans had, they found their own solution and slowly but surely drifted away from reliance on God. What’s even more interesting is that there is no record or indication of external pressure/persecution here… it was their own lifestyle that corrupted this church. What truly brings us peace? Wealth, strength, security and even health will never remedy the longing we have for living water.
The Sebastion in Aphrodisias
We talked frequently about how all art is marketing, especially in the Greco-Roman culture. The artist isn’t just making something decorative, there is always something deeper being communicated. In Aphrodisias there is a Sebastion, a two-story piece of art lining the road, with dozens of life-size friezes that depict episodes in Greek mythology and the conquests of Roman emperors. These images say something, even if they don’t speak. They speak to the aggressive conquest of the Romans, and the divinity of their emperors. The power of this art comes when it’s taken as a whole. Individually, each frieze is beautiful and communicates a message of it’s own. But all together? The Sebastion is staggering and you can’t help but wonder, “how in the world did this happen? Who is responsible for this?” The power and might of Caesar is revealed through this masterpiece.
Ephesians 2:8-10, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
We are God’s workmanship and were created to reveal his image. It’s great to know your design (who you are and what you’re doing here) and that life is beautiful all on its own. However, when we put a body of believers side-by-side as a collaborative masterpiece the world can’t help but step back and wonder, “who is responsible for this?” What’s even more powerful is that we are living, active works of art that get to point to our Creator in the way we live our daily lives.