+Tony Palmer (Italy)
While away on our Family Summer Holidays, last month, I took some time to visit an ancient Greek city in the south of Italy: PAESTUM.
Paestum is a city established by the Greeks around 600 years before Christ. It is famous for it’s outstandingly kept Greek Temple dedicated to Neptune; in fact the city derives its original name, Poseidonia, from the god of the Sea (the Roman god Neptune). It is an archeologically rich site with much to study. This Greek city of Poseidonia was taken over by the Romans and is thus known, today as Paestum.
The Temples, (of which there are three in good condition), were not my main reason for visiting this site. In my research of Paestum, I came across a very interesting building called the Ekklesiasterion. This name immediately caught my attention, and probably has yours too: EKKLESIA.
An Ekklesia 600 years before Christ in a Greek City..! The Ekklesiasterion was a meeting place for the Ekklesia. Most of you already know this word Ekklesia (Gr) is the word that we get ‘Church’ from. So my mind was hearing of a Church meeting in Paestum 600 BEFORE CHRIST.
The Ekklesia was a Greek Assembly, an organ of government open to all citizens, which was convoked about 40 times a year (once a week). This group or Council of NORMAL citizens were CALLED OUT of everyday society to help offer input and guidance to the City’s government. This understanding of what an Ekklesia was and it’s function within society, would have been well known to Jesus, and this made me think about what His intentions were when He announced the establishment of His Ekklesia.
Was He reinventing a ‘worshipping’ Community; was He reforming ‘established’ religion? What was His intension in establishing an Ekklesia and not a new Temple? Did Jesus intend to establish an Ekklesia that would speak into all of society (on His behalf), helping to guide and influence the lives of those He loved enough to die for? – the world. Did He call His Ekklesia out to be deeper involved in the running of life of the world … or to run away from the ‘world’?
Are we, the Church, being faithful to this intention today? Are we the Church (Ekklesia), which the governments invite for council? Are we the Church that Jesus hoped for... died for?
I have published a video of the Ekklesiasterion I found at Paestum on my FaceBook page – feel free to view it and comment.
Peace & all Good,