We have finished 6 of our 9 destinations and are now in our 7th: Monterosso of Cinque Terre, Italy. This is one of five villages that make up what’s known as Cinque Terre. There are no roads into these villages nestled into the hillsides of this coastal area so the only way to travel to them is by boat, train (to a few) or by trail between the villages. It is incredibly beautiful with terraced crops, cliffs, and gelato wherever you go.
One of the surprising treats of this whole trip was an excursion we made today to the Duomo in Milan. This is one of the most spectacular buildings I’ve ever seen! It was built to occupy the whole city of Milan at the time: 40,000 people! It is the fourth largest cathedral in Europe behind St Peter’s at the Vatican, London’s, and Seville’s. It was started in the 1300s but not completed ’til the 1800s by Napolean. It’s mamoth! We climbed the stairs to the roof from which one has an amazing view of the city and the plaza below.
We only had two and half hours to get off the train, find the luggage storage (and wait in a long line), find the metro and buy tickets to Duomo, take the train, see the Duomo, climb to the roof top, take our pictures, get some lunch (fighting the mob of 200 trying to get to the counter at the nearby Burger King), see the inside of the Church, get back to the subway, get back to the train station, get our luggage, find the platform for our train, as well as our coach, and our seats. We did it all with five minutes to spare (harried, hurried, but we made it)! I wish we could have had more time there, but what a treat! By the way, the picture where you see an altar & stain glass windows at the Duomo, that’s looking across the side up front – NOT the length of the sanctuary, and NOT the front altar!
Today we travel from Venice to Cinque Terre by train, stopping in Milan for a while to see the Milan Cathedral (5th largest in the world and a magnificent site). I feel like the disciples when they came into Jerusalem for the first time and were in awe of the great buildings and large stones. Jesus said not to be too impressed – stones crumble here like they do everywhere. People are people and God is God.
My only previous experience with Milan was on our last sabbatical when I was driving a minivan from Switzerland to Venice, traveling through the the main freeway past Milan during rush hour with heavy construction going on. It was the craziest driving experience I’ve ever had in my life! I remember driving in Tijuana years ago thinking that was crazy – this topped it! I remember going 90mph in a minivan on their autostrade (equivalent of Germany’s autobahn) on narrow lanes due to construction with cars flying past me, honking and flipping me the finger because I was going too slow. I was white knuckling it the whole way. Taking the train is such a more peaceful and enjoyable experience.
I imagine Paul coming into cities like Ephesus, Athens, Corinth, Philippi & Thessalonica, and especially Rome that were quite different from his small middle eastern town of Tarsus, or from Jerusalem for that matter. It’s like stepping into a different world. The cultural, architectural, religious differences make it feel like you’re stepping into a different world. You can notice this driving from Switzerland where everything is clean and pristine and well mannered, to Italy where there’s graffiti, where it’s loud, and where people flip you off. You notice it in Istanbul crossing the Bosphorus where Europe and Asia are separated within the same city, as well as country. The Asia (Middle Eastern) side is more sprawled, quiet, and residential where the European side is more urban, busy, and modern (though it also contains the sites of antiquity). But going to either side is a world of difference and culture shock as you are awakened by the morning call to prayer over loud speakers in Arabic.
What was true for Paul in his day is still true for us today – people are people, and God is God. There is the same need for love, repentance, forgiveness, structure, guidance, revelation, for the Good News given in Christ Jesus.
I just got the sad news of Doris Osmundson’s sudden death. My heart and prayers go out to Jim and the Osmundson family as well as the family of St Luke at the death of our sister. Doris was one our diligent workers behind the scenes that makes the ministry go – a great servant of Christ. May the proclamation of the resurrection bring comfort and hope to us all on this Day of The Lord. Peace be with you all.
Murano Island (famous for blowing glass – Dale Chihuly studied here)
Gondola ride with our Gondolier JohnBa (John the Baptist) who we had when we were here 6 years ago!
Santa Maria della Salute (other large basilica seen across from St Mark’s)
Alleyways & Canals in unique and picturesque Venice
Tomorrow we leave Venice by train (after we take the boat to the train) to Cinque Terre. It’s a several hour train ride stopping at Milan for an train change. We’re hoping to have the time to see the great cathedral in Milan. Blessings to all our brothers and sisters at St Luke on this Day of The Lord.
While some of Paul’s letters elevate Jesus’ resurrection as central to the Christian witness (i.e. I Corinthians 15), Luke (in Acts) has Paul focus on the resurrection even more. And not just Paul, but Peter and the other apostles as well: Acts 1:22, 2:31, 4:2, 4:33. The resurrection from the dead is the culmination of Jesus’ story, the apostle’s preaching, and the grounding of the Christian Church. It conveys the forgiveness of sins, new and everlasting life, God’s vindication of Jesus, and Jesus’ power over forces opposed to God. It is the hope of ages past and the help for years to come. It is not an idea, a concept, a myth, or an ideology. It is an event, an action, an act, an accomplishment (by God). It is what the story is about – both Jesus’ story and ours. Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead? Are not all things possible with God? (Luke 1:34,37)
St Mark’s Square
St Mark’s Basilica (St Mark’s tomb is under the altar)
Bridge of Sighs (where prisoners passed over from the court house into the prison with one last look at Venice sighing: “Ah, Venice!”)
Much of what we know about Paul and his journeys are recorded in the book of Acts, the sequel to Luke’s gospel. If the author to this two part story is Luke (the author never identifies himself), then what do we know about Luke? We know that he was a physician from Colossians. We know that the story of Acts was being told in the third person (they) in Acts 16 until Paul left Troas (in today’s Turkey) to cross over to Macedonia (Greece) to the cities of Philippi and Thessalonica, then the story was being told in the first person plural (we). So most likely Luke was from Troas or somewhere in western Turkey. And we know that Luke was with Paul as a prisoner taken from Jerusalem to Rome, where Luke was the only one left with Paul in Rome according to 2 Timothy (unless Timothy eventually came).
The writer of the gospel and its sequel (two of the most important documents in Christian history) was a protege of Paul’s. He was schooled in Paul’s theology and his witness to Jesus. You can see this come out particularly in the parables of Luke 15 (which only occur in Luke’s gospel) as well as other stories. Once again, the mentoring of other leaders of the church and preachers of the gospel is one way Paul ensured that the stones would continue to shout out beyond his years (Luke 19:40 – again, only in Luke’s gospel).
We’ve arrived in Venice. Ah Venice! My family informed me that I spelled Marco Polo wrong on my devotional entry. Evidently, I spelled Mark Chicken in Spanish. We’re here for a couple of days enjoying this very unique place.
Today we go to Venice, Italy. This is the only place we’re visiting that we’ve visited before. On my last sabbatical we came to Venice and stayed about two days. We’re only staying here again this trip for two days. Venice had nothing to do with Paul’s travels or understanding Paul’s theology but my wife loves Venice so we had to come again! Lori’s family’s origins (on her dad’s side – Massuco side) are from northern Italy. Probably further north than Venice, but nevertheless, it’s some sort of connection to family roots.
Venice is a unique place. Water for asphalt and canals for roads, no cars, only boats, there’s no other place quite like it. It has a rich history – Marco Pollo was from Venice, and most famous of all is St Mark’s Square with its pigeons, tower, and the symbols of the lion on St Mark’s Cathedral where Mark (John/Mark) is supposedly buried beneath the altar. Maybe Mark was able to finally visit Paul in Rome (see Day 12 entry) and made his way north to this great dynasty city. The Venetians reportedly went and took Mark’s bones which were in Egypt and brought them to Venice and buried them there beneath the altar in St Mark’s Basilica.
But its heyday has come and gone. Its future is questionable with waters rising and foundations crumbling. Venice is yet another reminder of Isaiah’s words that everything of human origin has its day and will not last forever. That doesn’t mean that its existence didn’t matter. Venice has made a difference! But neither does it mean that we do anything and everything to secure its existence. There is perhaps a time when we let go of things. For years they dredged the silt from the harbor at Ephesus to secure its existence, but eventually nature had a mind of its own and relocating was necessary. For now, Venice still has an existence and purpose. For now, so do I, and so do you.
Our last day in Greece. So we made it an adventure. We rented a van and drove to Corinth (really to Ancient Corinth, or what was Corinth in Paul’s day which is outside of today’s Corinth and only comprises about 1-2 square blocks that’s really difficult to find). The only attractions of Corinth is the ruins of Ancient Corinth (about 1-2 square blocks), the channel (which was dredged in the late 1800s with the help of the Hungarians – previously they had a road they pulled ships on land by rollers between the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf), and a fortress over Ancient Corinth with spectacular views. Today was about 100 degrees! It was too hot to climb up to the fortress so instead we drove to the beach town of Nafpilo and swam after visiting the ruins at Corinth.
There’s no mention of the Temple of Apollo in the ancient Corinth agora, nor of the fortress looming above. These two sites are not only the main attractions of the place today but certainly would have been in Paul’s day as well. Paul stood in the shadows of these great monuments answerable to the city council at the Bema (on the main drag through town where proceedings were held) for his proclamation of Jesus lordship, kingship, and authority because of his resurrection from the dead. It puts a whole new perspective on the events being there and seeing the surroundings.
Tomorrow we travel to Venice, Italy and start our third leg of the journey. We’re now just over half way through our pilgrimage and the kids are still hanging in there. By the way, driving through Athens is an experience! We only got lost today a half dozen times and asked directions only about a dozen times. Not bad.