Saturday, September 11, 2010

Burn That Thing Down! Or not...

Lotsa folks wouldn't let anyone build this in their town. "Burn that thing down!" they'd say.

Or blow it up.

Sometimes we forget how time passes, how young and recent our experience and understanding of the world is, we Americans.

For us, like 1803, like the Louisiana Purchase, that's really... like... OLD! Practically the Stone Age.

And 1776, that hall with powdered wig guys and a hot, muggy day in Philly when it was barely more than a glorified cow town on the edge of the woods.... Paleolithic, Old Stone Age. Right?

This building with the four different minarets... It didn't always have them. It's the third church by its name on the site in modern day Istanbul, formerly Byzantium, Constantinople before that.

The name? Aya Sofia in Turkish. Hagia Sophia, transliterated from Greek. It's the Church of Holy Wisdom. The first church on the site was begun by Constantine himself and his son Constantius between 325 and 360 AD. Fire destroyed it in 404 AD. A second church was consecrated in 415 AD and destroyed during riots in 532 AD. 29 days later, Emperor Justinian ordered the construction of a new church that would surpass Solomon's temple in Jerusalem. It was consecrated December 27, 537. I've stood inside under its 55-meter dome, an absolute engineering marvel not only 1500 years ago, but even today.

It has suffered from earthquakes, fires and wars, has been repaired and rebuilt numerous times.

On May 27, 1453, Sultan Mehmet II entered the city after conquering the armies of the dying Byzantine Empire. Muslim worship and prayers were conducted here from then until 1935 when it was declared a museum of the Republic of Turkey after Kemal Ataturk ordered repairs between 1926 and 1930.

So, let's see... A Christian church for 916 years with already two centuries of Christian worship under its belt on that patch of land.

Then, a Muslim house of worship for 482 years.

Then a museum for the lifespan of the average American in the age of fast food and lack of exercise.

Nearly 1473 years old. 6.3 times as old as our independence from Great Britain if we use that '76 event in Philly as our starting date.

What is America's long-term role in the world? How will the events of September 11, 2001 be regarded 100, 200, 1473 years from now?

Way too soon to tell. Meanwhile, do we know our neighbors in this world?

Have we learned to love them as ourselves?

Have a blessed day in prayer for all who mourn and work for a better world on this day.



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