‘Let’s talk Turkey’, or Turkiye!

One of my favourite photos from our holidays in Turkey

In my thinking and readings of late, I have been reminded of our visits to this land of sunshine, friendly people, great hotels, and interesting places. Turkey also has a fascinating history, and is blessed by a beautiful coastline along the north- eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Hence this blog!

The Republic of Turkey (or Turkiye) is a land that sits astride two continents, the largest area by far being in Asia and a much smaller part being in Europe. This year, on the 29th October, the nation will celebrate its 100th Anniversary since the national declaration of the Republic of Turkey. A nation frequently in the news, and a main player in what seems like the never ending wars and conflicts besetting the Middle-East. For many ordinaray folks, however, the national name Turkey, brings to memory the name of a great place to enjoy a holiday!

If you have never been to Turkey, I guess that you will have heard stories from others who have spent a holiday or business trip there! To start with, here are a few of my favourite photographs which illustrate the attraction of Turkey as a holiday resort. Oh, and if you come home without having bought a leather jacket or handbag, or a ‘real fake’ designer ‘T shirt” you have missed a ‘bargain’! 🙂

Much to see and do and for all tastes!

Our days of holidays on the beach with the children have long gone, but we do love visiting many places of historical interest, and as I’ve said, Turkey abounds with such places. The Bible’s New Testament, records not only the historical facts surrounding the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, but the establishment and spread of the Christian Church. Initially this was throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, including Galatia – which is now very much a part of Turkey. On our last visit there, we joined a tour group, visiting the locations of seven particular churches to whom Jesus wrote, and delivered his letters by the Apostle John in the last book of the Bible. Their names? Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. You can locate them from the map shown below.

* map from the 2nd edition of IVP’s New Bible Dictionary

John the Apostle sent these letters to the seven churches around AD 95. You can read the story for yourself in Revelation Chapters 1-3. It was a fascinating trip, and brought to us an understanding of the geographical locations and also the significance of these letters. Here are some photos of the seven places we visited, home to these churches, with the briefest of descriptions.

To the Church in Ephesus – ‘I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance.... but….

Ephesus our first tour stop – This city we are told dates back to 1000BC, before coming under the control of the Romans in 129BC. It features very much in the New Testament during the travels of the Apostle Paul, and in fact the NT also records another letter from Paul, written to the church here. The ruins of Ephesus are absolutely astounding, and a wonder to behold. I’ve got to say that the library building in design and ambience, is a work of art and somewhat out-classes our local library today! Rev.2:1

Smyrna – (now Izmir) is a very large city sitting on the Aegean coast of Anatolia, and an excellent shipping port. Unfortunately we did not see any ancient church ruins here, but we were able to buy a rug from this friendly lady. And on our first visit to Turkey we did attend a 21st century Church here in Izmir! Rev.2:8>

Pergamum – Travelling approximately 15 miles inland we came to what was once a rich and powerful Greek city in Mysia. It was one of the most spectacular sites we visited as you can see, with a very steep amphitheatre, and the remains of the temple of Zeus on top of the hill. Rev:2:12

To the Church in Thyatira – ‘I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance‘ …

Thyatira – Continuing on our loop around the churches we came to Thyatira. Paul the Apostle met at Phillipi a business woman from here, who was a seller of purple cloth. It has been said that perhaps she was the very first convert to Christianity in Europe! There was not a lot to see at this site now, situated in a suburb of Akhisar, but it was good to sit among the remains of this ancient church, and to consider the men and women and children who at one time worshipped here, and to contemplate the letter they received. Rev.2:18>

To the church in Sardis – ‘I know your deeds, you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.‘….

Sardis – Then in the Manisa Province we came to Sardis, once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia. It is in such a beautiful location, situated in the Hermus valley with Mount Tmolus towering above it. The Gymnasium was spectacular, and the ancient ruins of temple, synagogue and church were fascinating to see and consider.

To the Church in Philadelphia – ‘I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no-one can shut ….’ Rev.3:7 >

Philadelphia – is now called Alasehir, it was here in the middle of the town we saw the ruins of what was once a very substantial church building. The letter to this Church was perhaps the most encouraging of all the seven letters. Not a lot to see here apart from the Church building ruins.

To the Church in Laodicea – ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot, I wish you were either one or the other! ……‘ Rev.3:14>

Laodicea – Last of the seven was Laodicea situated in what was once the ancient province of Phrygia, now called Denzil Province. It was another site we found of great interest. Here the Church’s assessment of themselves was – ‘we are rich, wealthy and in need of nothing‘. Jesus assessment of them was – ‘you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked’! Now that is a sobering thought!

Reflection: Of necessity this blog has been a bit of a whistle stop tour, and I realise that the seven letters to the Churches, may be quite unfamiliar to many who read my blog. The seven letters to seven specifice churches in what was then ‘Galatia’ are brief, dictated by Jesus and written by John who was at that time imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos. Some Bible scholars have seen these letters as prophetic, referring to seven eras of Church history. Most however see them as applying to Churches worldwide, at all times and in every place, including our Churches today. A reading of the letters also shows they are applicable to individual Christians, so they are of extreme importance to all who claim to be followers of Jesus.

The letters certainly speak frankly to these churches, commending the good with promised reward, and strongly condemming the poor spiritual and moral behaviour, and poor performance, within some of the Churches. Words that keep being repeated in each letter are the words “I know‘, ‘I know’. Jesus sees the Church collectively and its members individually. The New Testament refers to those who believe as God’s children whon he loves. In these letters he says ‘Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline, repent,’ (just as any good parent would do) and then follows these well known words:- ‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.’ An invitation still open to all people, in all places, at this time! I love this song, which in many ways encapsulates the call of the seven letters. Have a listen

Due to unforseen circumstances this is my first blog of 2023, so I wish everyone every blessing for the rest of the year – Matthew

Note: The use of the idiom of ‘Talking Turkey‘ has a number of suggestions as to its origin, none of which refers to the nation of Turkey! It’s said to mean lets talk about something pleasant, or lets speak frankly together. It’s something I try to do in my blog, and today I’ve used the expression to write about our experience in visiting the Republc of Turkey.