We have completed our two thousand one hundred kilometre circuit of Greece, having returned to Athens today after a seven hour journey south from Thessaloniki. Greek highways are modern and smooth, making for comfortable travel and providing easy access to all areas of the country. We passed a monument in the Valley of Tempi comemorating an accident ten years ago, when thirty children returning from a school excursion were killed in a collision between their bus and a truck. In response a tunnel is being constructed through the mountain of Kissavos to provide a safer and shorter route. Paul's journey 'through Macedonia and Achaia' (Acts 19:21) is treated briefly in Acts Chapter 20. The first six verses cover a vast span of time and a large geographical area. At least eighteen months of travel are condensed into a few verses. Christians often perceive Biblical time moving as fast as it takes to turn a page in our Bibles. Our failure to understand the time it took for Paul and his fellow missionaries to traverse the Mediterranean makes us some of the most hurried and harried believers in history. Forgetting how God rearranged Paul's plans, permitting interruptions in his itinerary and denying him entry into unreached areas, makes us often run when we should walk patiently in step with his Spirit.
We drove past Mount Olympus, mythical home of the twelve gods of the pantheon, its snow covered heights shimmering under the sun. Such slopes Paul traversed in Turkey, Greece and Albania for the Gospel (Romans 15:23). I was reminded of George Truett's words, Reflecting on Paul's travels, he said he 'saw the tracks of a wounded rabbit red across the snow, and those are the tracks of the apostle Paul across the Roman Empire.' Paul's life ended in a Roman dungeon, slain during Nero's persecution, yet he and his friends changed history. It is was said that the day came when the Romans called their dogs Nero and their sons Paul.
We too must make a mark on our generation, like the founder of the Salvation Army (to which Len and Jan belong), WilliamBooth, who when asked to explain his ministry said, 'Well, God has had all of me.' Or John Knox, who hailed from Caroline's homeland,and said, 'Give me Scotland lest I die.' The theme of sacrificial dedication was vividly highlighted as we came to the Pass of Thermopylae which 300 Spartans defended heroically in the face of an advancing Persian army. Another 700 Greeks from Thesbies assisted them in the fight. The Spartan soldiers knew they would either return victorious carrying their shields or, falling in battle, be carried dead on their shields. Facing imminent defeat,the Spartans sent 6000 Greeks away from danger back to their homes saying, 'O foreigner, tell the Spartans that we lie here faithful to their orders.' Obedient and faithful to death, the Spartan spirit intimates the sacrifice of our Savior and the service of Paul.
We returned to Athens in mid-summer, however Paul arrived in Greece (by which Luke means Roman Achaia), at the beginning of winter. Paul 'stayed three months' in Corinth with 'Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy' (Acts 20:6; Romans 16:23). It was in Corinth, in early AD 57, that Paul wrote his epistles to the Galatians and to the Romans. From there he desired to sail to Jerusalem to 'make a contribution for the poor among the saints' (Romans 15:23) and 'to present offerings' (Acts 24:17). We gratefully presented a gift to our guide Stelios, a wonderful man with a warm smile and a humble heart. An archeologist, he has brought the stories of Greece's ancient stones to life. Our friendship will continue and so will our faith. 'May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.' (2 Corinthians 13:14) Antio Ellada.