The Sabbath hours began with a gorgeous sunset over the bay of Kusadasi, where we stay in a hotel overlooking the harbor. Truly, this is to be a special Sabbath to cap an extraordinary week of discoveries in the sun and the surf, following the footsteps of the apostles.
We worship in a unique spot at the foot of the hill where the Basilica of St. John was built. We had made arrangements with long-time friends of our guide Sylvain Romain, the Sallioglu family who own this land, and who operate a beautifully shaded campground. We worship in the quiet of nature, in a cathedral made not by man, but by God’s own hand. While the Turkish sun is hot, the air conditioning is perfect. Bill Knott leads the Sabbath School lesson; I preach on the topic “Ancient Faith in a Modern World—what is the Role of the Church?” What an extraordinary privilege to read the Gospel of John, just a few hundred meters from where it was penned!
The afternoon gives us the opportunity to visit a 14th century mosque with a beautiful courtyard. Its imam (religious leader) is also an old friend of Sylvain; he welcomes us with such genuine joy and extraordinary cordiality, reminding us of the fact that Jesus has children in many different folds. This seems to be one of them. I can’t but look forward to meeting this man again in heaven, one day. May the literature we left bring him closer still to the God we both serve.
The tomb of St. John, just a few minutes away is another highlight of this special Sabbath. There is no reason to doubt the tradition that puts his burial site on top of this hill, just outside of Ephesus, a location described by ancient writers as rocky and “good for nothing.” Here lies the beloved apostle whose writings helped to bring millions to the feet of the Savior. One day, the slab that covers his burial ground will burst open, together with that of those who will have accepted the appeal he left behind: “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life” (Rev. 22:17).