I’ve been talking about the country of Turkey quite a bit in recent sermons. There are a few good reasons for this. First, Jesus saw fit to share seven sermons of his own making with the first Christian Churches, which were located in what is now Western Turkey (“Asia Minor,” according to the Romans).
Another reason I’ve been talking about Turkey lately is that I had the opportunity to travel there for an extended period in 2023 while on sabbatical. Being on site amidst Roman ruins, and walking through the first cities where the Christian Church found its roots has been a long-term bucket list item!! I’m so grateful to Elmhurst CRC for the gift of time to study, travel and learn more about the world in which the New Testament came to be.
Finally, my sister, Julie, and brother-in-law, Kevin, have been living in Western Turkey for the last 15 years. What a joy it was to meet some of the first-generation Turkish Christians whom they have been helping to train and disciple. And what an incredible privilege for me as an American pastor to have a personal guide through the highways and byways of rural Turkey! Not many Americans have a family member who speaks fluent Turkish and has a deep understanding of the social, political, and cultural issues on the ground there.
One very basic observation about the seven cities that were home to seven churches of the Book of Revelation is this: these ancient cities all thrived around fresh water. Even more than today, where in the modern world fresh water can be transported over hundreds of miles, Water equals Life.
Ancient Ephesus was a port city that depended on the over-the-Mediteranean saltwater trade, but it also had abundant fresh water flowing down from the nearby hills. The public bathroom still exists there, in fact. At the risk of being profane, you can literally sit where the Apostle sat.
In Ancient Smyrna, there was an abundant spring bubbling up from deep underground. There was so much water that the ancient Romans had underground clay pipes more than six feet in diameter to channel the water.
And in ancient Pergamum, a large lake gave life to the city. Even 2,000 years ago, clever folks devised a way to pump fresh water from the lake to the top of the city more than 1,000 feet above water level. I could go on, but you get the idea: Water equals Life.
The Church everywhere still thrives where there is a different sort of water to be found - the living water that is the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel of John, chapter 9, Jesus says, “ ‘Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ And by this, he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.” The water of the Holy Spirit equals spiritual life.
Will you join me in praying for, and longing for a fresh deluge of Living Water at Elmhurst CRC? I have high hopes that we are just turning the corner into something lovely and new that can only come as a gift from God.
– Pastor Gregg