Posts Tagged ‘Athens’

 On Sunday, those gathered were from Bulgaria, Albania, Greece, Switzerland, Ukraine, Russia, Australia, South Africa, Iran, Iraq, and Texas.  We used three different songbooks and the Greek, Cyrillic, and Roman alphabet.

The Lord’s Prayer was prayed simultaneously multi-tongued. The Spirit interceded in an unutterable language according to St. Paul in Romans 8, to make the thoughts of our hearts known to God.  Regardless of country of origin, the bread was broken in Ƙoinonia (Fellowship) and the cup was taken with Agape for the One who bought His Church with His own blood.

I preached twice yesterday in Athens at two wonderful congregations. I told them that their services at first reminded me of the Tower of Babel, but as I thought about it, I realized that God had used different languages to drive men apart in that story because of their haughtiness and pride.  Jesus, of course, came to break down the walls and unify people,which is why we could all sit together in one room. Our different languages are the remnants of punishment for our pride, but what seems today like a barrier is, in fact, the hope and promise of feasting with all the nations at the banquet of the Lamb.

These multi-national churches are like a taste of heaven!

And why is this?  Not so long ago, I reminded you of what St. Paul said in this same city two thousand years ago, when he had the opportunity to talk about the Unknown God with the Athenians:

From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 

God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. Acts 17:24

We visited with four Muslims who will be baptized next week. We talked with a Christian Iraqi preacher who fled with his wife and three children because of death threats.  We heard about twenty-five Africans in Athens training to be preachers.

Greece is considered unreceptive! Churches in America will not spend money in Europe because post-Christian Europeans don’t want to listen to American missionaries!

But what about the rest of the world that is in Europe? What about the nations?  What about all the world? What about God’s Spirit being poured out on all flesh?  What about God putting people in the exact place where they should live so that they will seek Him and find Him?  What about the peoples that God has put in Europe?

Maybe that’s too many rhetorical questions, but just come to Athens and see.  Visit the islands, enjoy the ruins and biblical sites, but don’t forget to see the nations!

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Mark and Sherrylee with Alex and Eleni Merrilytos overlooking Corinth.

We did not see the Parthenon! We did not see the Acropolis or the Agora! We did better than that!

We met the church in Athens, in fact, churches: a Greek-speaking church, a Bulgarian-speaking church, and an English-speaking church. In addition, we broke bread with Russian Christians, American Christians, a wonderful group of women from the Philippines who work in Greece, one brother from Nigeria, and one from Ghana.

The Omonia church of Christ in Athens is a church with open front doors! And the world is coming in! Alex and Eleni Melirrytos are the Greek couple who minister to all these groups.. There are other leaders who work very hard in all of the larger ethnic groups, but they are the responsible servants of God!

The congregation has existed for many years and has gone through lots of different phases. The current phase is challenging! The neighborhood has deteriorated badly. Other evangelists have led this church in years past, but have gone. The current economic situation in Greece has resulted in many of the foreign members of this church returning to their own countries or to other countries to find work.  And, of course, the inevitable personal situations have accumulated here as they do almost everywhere, always being heavy baggage to carry for those who live with the consequences.

Sherrylee and I fell in love with this church! It’s authentic! The people are devoted to God and to one another–and they are talking about forgetting what is behind and pressing forward. Paul would be proud of them.

The Greeks are dramatic! They can talk loudly—almost shouting—and their body language is BIG, and they can be all talking at the same time!  And ney means “Yes,” but sounds like “No”! We laughed so hard because we could never tell if they were mad or just loving on each other!  Alex and Eleni were the worst—and the BEST!

They took us to see Ancient Corinth on Monday—a little over an hour away from Athens by car, but probably three to four days walk for Paul and his entourage. That hour driving gave us time to talk about all the possibilities for LST in Athens, especially what the challenges might be.

What a beautiful setting on the sea. No wonder Paul stayed in Corinth so long!  Of course, there are only small areas excavated, still you can believe you are walking on the same street Paul did when he went to buy groceries. The Bema, or Place of Judgment, mentioned in Acts 18 has been identified and is being restored, so we could see where Paul stood before Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia.

Alex sneaked me down a back path to the ruins of the theater which are really closed off to the public, but we wanted to see the place discovered in 1929  where Erastus’ name and title are inscribed. This is almost certainly the Erastus mentioned in Romans 16 who was the director of public works.

What do you think they serve in ancient Corinth for lunch? Gyros, of course! What were you expecting???

After a pretty late lunch, we went to Cenchreae, where there is precious little left of Phoebe’s hometown, mostly just ruins of a church being swallowed by the sea.  But almost next door is a beautiful camp hotel where Christians in Greece gather once or twice a year for Bible study, retreats, and warm (probably dramatic!) fellowship. We are definitely going to try to get an invitation to be on their program!

Almost 2000 years ago, right here in Athens, Paul said,

From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. (Acts 17:26-27)

I’m thankful for every Christian in Greece and am praying for every person from every land that God has brought to Greece so they could seek Him and perhaps find Him!

Maybe you will be one of those people someday, coming with LST to Greece to talk to people about the unknown God and His Son Jesus!

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