I have never been to any place on earth that has such a rich history and so many references to things I have only read of and some I hold dear. Granted, I have not been in Israel yet. But neither has Obelix and Astrix. But they did go to the Colosseum, and so we went there too.
But the gladiators had plastic swords and made jokes at the tourists. The wildest animal I saw amongst the ruins was a small cat. Cleopatra apparently gave some cats to Julius Cesar as a gift. But he was allergic to cat fur, so he set them free to roam the streets, which they still do to this day!
Then there is the St. Peters in Vatican City, the Pantheon with it’s enormous dome and all those hundreds of elaborately decorated churches and Basilica. You walk into many of them through a tattered wooden door, set in a thousand year old wall that shows the signs of the time & the plunders of the barbarians and the Berninis. And you could be forgiven for thinking “now, how big can this one be inside?”. But then you walk inside & you don’t make it past the door; you stop so suddenly that the people behind you bump into you. You are stunned, “OH. MY. GOODNESS.” you think and some people actually exclaim something to that effect.
We went on a hop-on hop-off city tour in one of those topless buses that you see in London. What a treat to discover the city in this way. It was absolutely amazing to listen to the stories. Many antique Roman stories start with a phrase like “according to the tradition” or “the story has it”. But when they talk about the early Christians, they start with sentences like “When Peter returned to Rome after the death and resurrection of Jesus.”
To these people of the modern day Rome, Peter is as real as their own great-grandparents or famous artists who they have never met and who’s graves they’ve visited. You see, Peter’s grave is inside St. Peters. It is real, it is there. I must admit, this has changed my perspective on the faith heroes of the Bible and the ones that lived since the time of Acts. I tend to pull principles from their ‘stories’; now I find myself respecting their character and opinion.
Rome was built and burnt down. Rebuilt and suffered earthquakes. The early church flourished and then was persecuted. But at some stage after the turn of the previous century, the Church grew influential again. And they built all those magnificent buildings. But why? Why spend so much riches on their buildings? It seems to me that they had something to tell people. They made their gathering places attractive to, well, attract people. And it cost them dearly. You could compare it with what we read about the temple the Solomon built for the LORD. Only the best for our God and for the love of His House. With our westernized religious mindsets, we might doubt their motives. But their churches were relevant to the people of their time. They spoke in a language that the people understood.
So what about us, here, today? Are we giving enough to the local church to help make it attractive? Are you preaching a message that is relevant to the people of our time? Do I speak in a language that the people understand?“For David…served the purpose of God in his own generation” (Acts 13:36 NASB)
And? Are you & I serving the purposes of God in this generation?