Paintings tell a story

Ever have that feeling you that you’ve been someplace before and yet you know you have never been there?

That was today as we visited Meteroa. An UNESCO World Heritage Site and an incredible view to take in … and yet there was something familiar about the views. Oh yeah … I’ve seen it on the big screen. James Bond For Your Eyes Only. Today was more than an image on the screen it was real, big, and 3D.

This area at one time had over 30 Monasteries perched on the cliffs. Today that are but a few.

When Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire and persecution ended the monastic movement took off. Fearing that people would forget the cost of following Christ now that the threat of death was gone, the monastic retreated from the world foregoing all earthly pleasures so that people would be reminded of the cost of following Christ.

One of the Monasteries (actually a Convent) continues to function and we were able to visit. Aside of the views from high atop the rock cliffs … the views inside were amazing as well.

The chapels are ordained with the painted stories of the Bible and the life of Christ. Another Chapel was ordained with the story of a number of Martyrs. The interesting part was that the chapel while telling the story of so many that gave their lives because of their faith had empty spaces still on the wall. The reason for the empty space was the belief that not all the stories had yet happened that would need to be told. An incredible reminder that our faith is worth living, and yet it is also worth dying for the faith as well. And there are those that believe that there are still saintly stories to be told.

We wrapped up our day learning more about the art of telling stories.

Icons have long been a part of story telling in the Orthodox Church. Each Icon tells a story and have been around for centuries. The original icons were hand painted and remain in ancient churches, museums, or private collections. Reproductions can be purchased nearly every where.

We actually visited a family business where the old techniques are used to produce new original copies.

Each icon is handcrafted from the wood carving, to the canvas, to the painting (or icongraphy). This is truly a family business and an art form.

It was a blessing to see the family devotion to the craft and their faith and love for the works they produce.

Covid has been hard on this unique family business, so we are did are part to help them out. Be on the lookout for some new art work to help tell the story of faith coming to a Pastor’s office near you.

Without story faith dies. Today we experienced story in a little understood world of icon painting and ornate chapel paintings. Both very different from our culture in American Christianity. I’m not suggesting we redecorate the ceiling of our churches, but perhaps we could do a better job of our telling our stories of faith.

What story could we paint with your faith?

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Footsteps of Paul

The book of Acts is the story and history of the early church. It is easy to skip over the history in the book and simply jump to the letters of the Apostles. But when history comes to life … it’s hard to ignore.

Paul arrived by boat to Europe in this ancient port.

He arrived in Phillipi and launched the first church in Europe. He clearly loved these people. He likely was familiar with the theatre … walked the streets that are still here … spoke from the speakers chair … and amazingly all the places are here with the inscriptions in stone.

Outside the gates of the city, Paul met and baptized Lydia and her family. The church he loved started with Lydia (a wealthy merchant), a slave girl that was used by her masters, and the jailer who feared for his life after Paul and Silas were freed from their chains by a miracle. What a group to start a church with … in shadows of this place is the acropolis of Phillipi looking out over this sacred place.

In Thessalonica Paul was familiar with the place below. He was actually here … you can read it about in the story of Jason from Acts 17. This was part of the ancient forum and marketplace.

This is where it gets interesting. For centuries people questioned the authenticity of Luke’s account in Acts. Luke uses the term Politarch in reference to the rules and officials. Problem is Luke is the only one to use the term. It was found no where else in history. The belief by many was that Luke made up the word and the stories. Therefore the Bible cannot be believed. This was the story until the late 1800s when the stone below was discovered. Numerous other inscriptions verifying Luke’s account have since been found.

Imagine that …. history can verify the truth the Bible. Beware doubters … stones don’t lie!

By the way … by the descriptions of Paul this statue reveals the reality of Paul’s appearance. He certainly won people over with his words. Appearance was not in his favor

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A couple of additional observations

Paul must have been fascinated by the beauty of everything. Marble was in abundance and that meant everything was built with marble — even the sewers. Value is something we give to things … sometimes we forget about the value of that which have and place to much value on that which we don’t.

Fall in Greece looks alot like Indiana

Greece is the word

Travelling to anyplace new is an experience.  We are not strangers to the new in travel. Even our simple family fun Fridays are filled with adventures, but let me tell you this trip has been filled with adventure from the start.

Until we arrived I was not convinced this trip would even happen. Consider that in the past 18 months six other trips have been cancelled. So it really shouldn’t have been a surprise that our rapid tests resulted in a quick (possibly panicked) trip to Lebanon, Indiana to get a test result – negative.

Just getting out of Indy was a process. Nothing like getting to the airport early only to have your flight delayed by three hours – oh the horror of lost sleep to begin the journey.

Travelling in the new Covid World is unique. Vaccine cards, masks, social disctancing, and limited staff make for interesting scenes.

Landing in JFK was an adventure. No signage – no directions – and no one with answers as to how you get to the international gates. No wonder … it was like a ghost town.

Thanks to the wind our flight to Frankfurt, Germany was only 7 hours – a movie, dinner, and a long nap. We arrived just in time for breakfast. If you can call a beer and currywurst breakfast? The short answer is yes. Yes you can. YUM!

Our wait for our flight to Greece was interesting. Lets just say it involved three gate changes and eventually a short bus ride (really a tour) of the Frankfurt Airport. I mean why assign a gate to a plane when you can just load the plane for the end of the runway?

26 hours later (32 on the actual clock) and welcome to Greeece.

While unpacking and getting ready for our first day of touring, it became apparent that I was missing a key component – the battery charger for my camera – what is it about me and cameras?! Good news the hotel provided us a map and directions to a camera shop. They were most helpful and we are now ready to take pictures and wear out the batteries. 

Thankful for helpful people and common places (camera shops) that allow a strange place to begin to feel like home.

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Quick observations

Not every where new that you go feels like home or is even welcoming. There are some places that are just so different from what you are used t0 (or expect) that you just struggle adjusting.

I can already begin to understand Paul. A Jew from Jerusalem finds himself entering Europe into a land that while ruled by the Romans is still very Greek. It is different.

Perhaps that’s why Paul (Acts 17:1) chose to spend time in the cities that had synagogues – there was comfort in the familiar.

I’m confident we will meet more people like our new friends who aided us in feeling welcome.

Tomorrow we explore a place were Paul discovered new friends and launched the church he most loved – Phillipi.