People from all times and places search for answers. We visited temples in Turkey that were places for pilgrimage for pagans — places like the temples of Apollo in Didyma and Artemis in Ephesus.
The temple of Apollo in Didyma is especially impressive. If it had ever been finished, it would have been the largest in the Hellenic world. As it remains, it is a monument to the challenge of raising money for great buildings!
Although it dates back to the 6th century B.C., Alexander the Great reconsecrated it in 334 B.C. Over the following centuries, plans were drawn up, column segments were carved, but the entire temple was never completed. Money was always lacking (sound familiar to those pastors who have led a church through a building campaign?) It’s fascinating to see the columns where they lay for thousands of years, waiting to be put together. But they never were!
But as I said, people from all times and places search for answers to questions political and personal. People would come to this temple with concrete questions for which they wanted answers. They would pay a donation to submit the question to the priest or priestess presiding over the temple. They then would wait, sometimes many days, to receive an answer, an oracle, from the god or goddess. They then would return home with their answer.
This process reminded me of a thought provoking quote by Henri Nouwen: “Our lives as we live them seem like lives that anticipate questions that never will be asked. It seems as if we are getting ourselves ready for the question ‘How much did you earn during your lifetime?’ or ‘How many friends did you make?’ or ‘How much progress did you make in your career?’ or ‘How much influence did you have on people?’ or ‘How many conversions did you make?'” (Seeds of Hope)
Nouwen goes on to talk about the question he believes that Jesus will ask us about our lives, based on Matthew 25.31-46, which is, how did we treat “the least of these”?
Our lives are a search for answers. Pilgrims spent time, money, encountered great danger to find answers. But were they asking the right questions? What are the questions on which our lives should be based today?