Thanking God for…
by Robie Day
Let me first say that I am glad to be home! Over the past few weeks, I have done quite a bit of traveling, and to be honest, I have been quite exhausted. After spending a week and a half in Europe with over a dozen high school students, and then another week on our family vacation, I have needed a couple of days to get settled back into my routine. Now that I have been back for a few days and have had the chance to get recharged, I am excited to get back to blogging.
Something I decided before I left for Europe was to take a break from blogging and focus as much of my time as I could on my students, and even more importantly, my family. I still had to do school work and some sermon prep while I was on vacation, so I did not want to spend more time away from our family vacation. I did, however, give a great deal of thought to what I would write about upon my return. And although there have been several things that I have bounced around in my head, I decided to do something a little different this week. Instead of writing something on theology or apologetics, I decided to simply share a portion of my trip to Europe with you.
This is a trip which I and a coworker organize every two years at the high school where I teach. Each trip is to a different place, and we always try to include two countries in our trip. This year we decided to go to Italy and Greece. And while I could spend pages and hours writing about all of the things we saw on our trip, there was one place that simply made the trip for me: the Areopagus in Athens, Greece. You may know know it better as Mars Hill. This is the place in which the apostle Paul preached against the idolatry of the Athenians (Acts 17:16-34) and made the proclamation, “What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (vv. 23-25 ESV). Although Mars Hill is really just a simple rock at the foot of the Athenian Acropolis, it was a great experience to walk in the same place in which Paul preached the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Knowing that this was going to be a part of the trip, I decided ahead of time that I wanted to try to preach a sermon while I was there, video the sermon, and post it on our church website and maybe even play it in service when I returned. However, being that it was group trip and we were always on a schedule, time did not allow for me to do so. Instead, I used the pictures I took and the things I learned, and used them to preach the sermon upon my return. However, as I mentioned earlier, the point of this post is not to provide the historical background or an exposition of this passage, but to share something that I found extremely uplifting.
I was very fortunate that I was able to take such a great group of students on this trip. They were not only well behaved and respectful throughout the trip, but they were an extremely fun group who was always willing to experience the local culture, learn new things, and did not once complain about the lack of amenities that we are so often spoiled by in America. It was truly a blessing to share this experience with these students and get to know them on a much more personal level.
That is still not the part I want to share with you. On the flight home (which was just shy of ten hours) I sat next to one of my students who had just graduated this spring. We talked about several things on the way home, including movies, music, and the food in Europe (which was spectacular!). As we talked about the trip and all the things we saw and did while we were there, I asked her what she enjoyed seeing the most. Not surprisingly, she had a hard time narrowing it down to just one. We saw so many things throughout the trip (the Athenian Acropolis, the ruins of Delphi and Mycenae, ancient Olympia, Epidauras, Pompeii, the Vatican, the Coliseum, the Roman Forum), how could anyone pick just one? After thinking for a moment, she finally said, “The Coliseum and the theatre at Epidaurus were really cool, but I really enjoyed Mars Hill.” Wow! Of all the ancient sites that we saw, the one place that she thought was “really cool” was Mars Hill. What a blessing to hear an eighteen-year-old, recent high school graduate say that Mars Hill was the coolest thing they saw on a 10-day trip to Italy and Greece. As if the trip itself was not enough, this was the icing on the cake for me. It was not that she just enjoyed going there because it was some beautifully constructed monument (because it is literally just a big rock… although I really do not think Paul would have it any other way), but because she knew and understood the significance of what took place on that hill sitting in the shadow of all those elaborate monuments dedicated to the gods of ancient Greece. She did not only know that the Areopagus was a biblical place, but she understood that this is where Paul boldly proclaimed the gospel in a city known for its philosophy and polytheistic worldview. I cannot tell you how edifying this discussion was for me. My hope and prayer is that my own children will cherish the gospel in the same way that this young lady did. This was a wonderful end to an already wonderful trip, and I am very thankful for the opportunity to share such an experience with my students.