We had a wonderful holiday away in Turkey, and an amazing visit to the site of the
ancient city of Ephesus – I’m sure some of you will have seen a few of the pictures
I’ve shared in church.
To think that this whole city was lost and covered over until one British Archaeologist
on a search for Ephesus came across some rubble and re-discovered it – and the excavations
began. 150 years later and the site is one of the best archaeological sites in the
world – even though only some 20% of the city has been uncovered – imagine what else
there is to discover.
We know that the city was the capital of the Roman province of Asia, what we now
call Turkey – and was a major sea port connected to the rest of the Roman world with
shipping plying across the Mediterranean Sea, bringing goods and people from around
the known world. It was a centre of Religious worship too – with a magnificent temple
dedicated to the goddess Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
It must have been a vibrant, bustling and cosmopolitan city.
As a Christian, of course, it's the association with St. Paul that gives Ephesus
such appeal. He visited there on his missionary journeys from Jerusalem, and you
can read about it in your Bibles in Acts chapter 19. Interestingly when he gets
there for the first time he meets Christians who were already there, and starts to
teach them about Jesus.
Paul and his friends were so effective in sharing their stories of Jesus that the
Christian church grew and grew, so much so that it provoked a riot!
Many of the local people had their livelihoods bound up with the Temple of Artemis,
and the production of statues and imagery of the goddess – and they felt threatened
by these ‘Christians’ coming over here to tell people that there is no such thing
as goddesses, and people don’t need to worship statues made of silver or gold. No
wonder they stirred up the people against the Christians and start a riot.
Thankfully St. Paul survived this scrape, and went on to help build a strong and
thriving Christian community, and we have his letter to the Church at Ephesus as
a testament to what God was doing amongst them.
Religion has always had the power to move people for better or for ill, to bring
out the best and the worst in human hearts – indeed that goes for all ideologies,
religious and secular – Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia and Communist China to name a
Right now our hearts and minds are filled with sadness and anger at the attack in
the Manchester Arena that killed and injured so many innocent children and young
I find it hard to even begin to understand the thinking that can justify such an
act of murder and maiming in the name of God, and I'm sure that my Muslim friends
are struggling with this too.
Yet at the same time I have to acknowledge that there are some violent texts in our
own Bibles. These have been used to inspire Christians and Jews to perpetrate acts
of violence and murder in the name of God down the ages, and in some parts of the
As thoughtful people of faith this is something that we all have to grasp and own.
We need to stand up and proclaim that God is not behind these terror attacks, that
God hates these acts of terror and violence as much as we do, that God longs for
us to turn our weapons of war to peaceful use, and to embrace each other in love.
I know some people who look at all that has happened and just want to give up on
religion as a cause of division and hatred – because that's all they see on the news.
Let’s make sure that when they look at us they see a different story, that tells
of a God who loves each one of us, and showed us that by living among us, healing
our wounds, dying for our sins, rising to new life and giving us hope for our future.