(note: I know I started a series based on my evolution of discipleship, but I've since had to put it on the back burner because , first, I was getting set for a sermon, and second, I am also preparing for the Marriage Retreat. BUT I just saw this and had to share!)
This morning, I preached on Paul's second missionary journey and how their movements were adjusted by the Holy Spirit, denying them their plans to go into Asia Minor.
Specifically, they were directed away from Bithynia. I mentioned that eventually, the Gospel did reach Bithynia, and - more importantly - became a very influential part of the Church. In 325 AD, Nicea hosted the first Church Council since the times of the early apostles in Acts. The reason was unfortunate because a heresy (Arianism) had developed in the church, threatening to undermine our proper understanding of the revealed nature of God and how it affected our theology of Salvation. The council went on to produce a creed - a basic set of beliefs - that defined exactly what Christians believed, and therefore, anything that didn't agree with this, was malevolent. To this day, churches around the world still recited the Nicene Creed as a form of confession and praise. This goes to prove that just because you're not chosen first you aren't important!
Now, a church in Nicea has made the news, again. Sort of. In 2014, Mustafa Şahin, the head of archaeology at Bursa Uludağ University, had been doing some work in Iznik, Turkey (Iznik is the name of the city that used to be Nicea, which was in the region of Bithynia) when he saw an aerial photo (kinda punny, huh?) of a building. Not just any building - a church building. Dating the building put it at 390 AD, and it was probably destroyed by an earthquake around 740 AD, and just lost to flooding.
A couple of marvelous thoughts:
First, this building was probably around when the Nicene Creed was hammered out - certainly had pastors or members that were around when it happened. Perhaps its member played a critical part in its formation?
Second, Şahin found another amazing discovery: the church is actually built on-top of a pagan shrine. The Gospel had so saturated Nicea that there was no problem converting not only the people, but even the physical structures - never again would they look back to their useless and fruitless way of life! That's a beautiful site.
Bad things happen. Earthquakes that kill people and destroy livestock, property and a way of life. It must have been sad in the mid-8th century for that local congregation to have to start over. But it happens. But it wasn't the end of the church or the end of the Church's mission.
Think about it: what they did there, then, has reverberations in history.
You would not be reading this now unless the faithfulness of those Nicene Believers had shown to be genuine.
What matters NOW is to ask: what legacy of faith do I leave behind? When Grace and America pass from history, did what we do make a difference in His Story? When people of the future dig around our graves and past, will they find faithfulness and an unwavering commitment to God's Great Commandment and Great Commission? Time will literally tell.