June 18, 2013
The AMBS group met together for the first time aboard Celebrity Reflection. Bruce Baergen led us in “I Sing the Mighty Power of God” and several other hymns. Sara Wenger Shenk had us join in prayer including the lines, “Spirit sweeping over the waters, renew our hearts today.”
We come from three Canadian provinces and six U.S. states and have come for a variety of reasons: to enter the story of Paul, to have fun with good friends, to celebrate special anniversaries, to get to Turkey, and to see the area where Christianity got established. Interesting questions were raised: What impact do these historical places have on my faith? Did Paul have any idea he was founding a religion? How do we see the Pope from our Anabaptist perspective?
Loren offered comments: The “Rock” on which Jesus promised to build his church may be Peter’s confession of faith in Jesus as messiah, rather than Peter himself. Amelia had pointed out that crosses were installed at the top of the Egyptian obelisks in Rome as a symbol of Christianity’s triumph over paganism. But is such “triumphalism” really Christian? Is it Christ-like? What did Paul mean when he said that all powers have been “ordained” (or ordered) by God? How did he see the role of government in light of the harshness of Rome’s rule?
Loren gave an introduction to the life, thought, and ministry of Paul. Paul was one of the more important thinkers and theologians in the early church; he can even be considered the main “designer” of what became Christianity. The undisputed letters of Paul include Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. In his writing, Paul can be seen as both a missionary theologian and a missionary pastor. Loren’s imaginative reconstruction of Paul’s pastoral “To Do” list was interesting. He also reminded us that 1 Corinthians 13 was written to a congregation about relationships in congregational life; it was not intended for weddings. Loren suggested that it would be good to use occasionally in the congregational setting! In reading Romans, Loren suggested substituting the word justice for righteousness (or just for righteous) at times, since the Greek can be translated either way. In conclusion, Loren summarized that Paul experienced a life-changing conversion and call on the way to Damascus.
We spent a relaxing afternoon in our staterooms, or in other places around the ship. Some of us were ambitious enough to do Zumba Dance or to swim or to get acquainted with the ship. Our first “formal dinner” in the evening found more of us grouped together in the large main dining room. After dinner, some of the late-night folks from our group enjoyed an a capella performance by a men’s quartet called “These Guys.”
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Welcome to this window on the 2013 Mediterranean Cruisetour. As Sara Wenger Shenk, AMBS president, and Loren Johns, AMBS professor of New Testament, and 43 other travelers explore the places where the Apostle Paul traveled, they will share photos and reports here. Come back to this space for what we hope will be daily snapshots in words and photos of what the group is experiencing.
Visit Menno Travel to learn more about the Cruisetour.