One of our first purchases in the supermarket was a bag of salt. We are / are called to be the salt of the earth. My understanding that the common salt of the middle east was the salt from the dead sea – full of phosphates it had fertilising properties and was also thrown on the effluence to help stop the advance of disease and such like. Salt – to accelerate and feed healthy growth and prevent the negative. Disciples of Jesus have a privileged calling. So salt was on the list to buy, and salt has been used – a little trail already at Congress with more to come.
Yesterday we went to the arch at the Toledo gate into Madrid. The road sign points to Badajoz and ‘all routes’. It was the southern gate and Napoleon was very interested in that geography. Underneath the arch he had buried a constitution that effectively made Spain subject to France; later the radical 1812 Constitution of Cadiz was placed there. That short-lived constitution has shaped so much within Europe and beyond. Once the monarchy returned the constitution of Cadiz was removed and replaced by a monarchy-friendly one! The power of locating things in the land.
Badajoz – we had some history there and were deeply impacted by the depth of the forgetfulness that the city has been subjected to. Where there is the place of deep forgetfulness it is the place that holds the memory most powerfully. The memory remains unhealed hence the power is not dissipated. This is one of the reasons why Spain in this next period has to go to a deeper level over the Civil War – and Cataluña’s memory is much deeper than the Civil War but there has to be a starting point there.
We began at the statue honouring the lawyers murdered in their office in 1977. That event had a strong impact on the shift from dictatorship to democracy and the current mayoress of Madrid was part of that group of lawyers. Vengeance was not called for, and the funerals that resulted drew huge crowds but they held both their peace and their voices.A great place to start our prayer. From there we walked the ancient path to the Toledo gate / arch. Avoiding both the traffic and the police we got ourselves into the middle of the arch.
When we followed the path from the north to the south we followed the geography of the ReConquista. That is part of Spain’s past that still is fuel for the radical side of Islam. Since our journey there has been a resurgence of ReConquista language, and in the most recent aspect of it, a ReConquista of Spain starting in the South and going all the way to the north. This has to be the starting point as this was where we finished. We stood in the gate to ‘say no… and salt on the ground. Signs point to the reality… and they pull the reality to themselves. Salt that stops the growth of what should not be present.
I am very grateful for my evangelical roots, coming to faith when I was 16 and experiencing the reality of a ‘personal’ relationship with God. Likewise the impact of the charismatic expression of Christianity, healings, miracles, speaking in tongues and all that goes along with that… absolutely life-changing. Backgrounds are important and I know many of my peers have sought to re-position themselves with regard to those two definitions, as labels cannot ultimately define and certainly should not restrict us. My own trajectory has taken me, not so much to move on from them (post-) but to realise that they sit within a bigger landscape. That landscape being that of stewardship of this creation both to point toward the new creation and to draw that new creation ever closer. The body of Christ, is here to bear witness to that new creation and to create space that humanity can fill as less-than-perfect, yet real stewards of, that new creation.
Ephesus was one of the largest cities of Roman Asia Minor, probably pushing toward 200,000 inhabitants. It was wealthy and as per many cities was religious. Temples abounded but the pride of place went to the Temple of Artemis, it being one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The claim was that Artemis’ image had fallen from the sky and therefore the city had a unique relationship as steward of her presence. (This could be simple myth, or perhaps a meteorite had fallen in that vicinity.) Paul’s time in Ephesus was remarkable and I think incredibly instructive. There are a set of elements that are presented in the biblical texts there that are quite incredible. It is quite hard to know were to start and how to list them, but I will try and follow how Luke records them:
He found some believers there whose understanding was limited, but they soon became disciples of Jesus in a much fuller way. They seem to become the core of who Paul worked with, taking them with him when he left the synagogue as his focus.
Artemis was worshipped throughout Aisa Minor and Paul set up his base in the hall of Tyrannus. Of course what he taught and spoke of we all interpret through our own lenses. An early version of Alpha courses? A fully fledged Sunday meeting with band in place? I don’t think so!! The result though was manifold, one aspect Luke notes is that what he was proclaiming was heard throughout Asia Minor. Throughout her former domain!
This can only indicate that the rule of Artemis was seriously challenged, witnessed to by the insistent cry of the populace reacting to Paul’s message: ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians’.
Not only was her rule challenged but it was seriously weakened and curtailed. Not only was the message heard but also miracles likewise took place throughout what we might call was formerly her territory. Handkerchiefs were carried to those sick, healings and deliverances occurred. Such was the clear impact that even Jewish exorcists employed the phrase ‘by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims’.
Occult books were burned, Ephesus being a centre for witchcraft and magic.
The economics of the city were challenged and threatened.
The hierarchy of government was deeply touched.
There is something there for all of us. Spiritual warfare – bind and loose those powers, go challenge those demons! Public proclamation; miracles, healing and deliverances. Ephesus certainly sets the bar high for us charismatics… But there is much more. for me too much takes place for Paul’s activity to be simply an ancient version of much of our activities today, none of which I am knocking, simply suggesting that God is raising the bar enormously for us. (I think he raised the bar way high when we consider the cross and the resurrection…)
My plan then is to take some of the above themes and try and develop them over a number of posts.