What Cain hath wrought- Murder and Brutality in the Past It almost seemed eerily appropriate that as I reached the summit of the mountain, the wind began to howl and blow fiercely, as if wanting to add my number to the victims whose lives ended so tragically up there. The citadel and temple ruins here date back to about the 6th century B.C., when pagan Iberian tribes roamed the area not too far from Mtskheta, Georgia. The Scythians passed through here, as did Julius Caesar’s son-in-law, General Pompey, who controlled the citadel for a time. The area was known as Armazi, most likely a word connected to pagan forerunners of the Iranians, but in truth no one really knows.
From the edge of the mountain, one could still see the slab where human sacrifices were carried out, the bodies no doubt unceremoniously tossed down the steep slopes into the canyon below. I could sense palpable evil from the past as I walked there. Words fail me when confronted with what must have been unspeakable horror taking place in a quiet, beautiful countryside.
Traveling through these ancient lands, I often get a sense of all the people who have come before me. I wondered as I took in the sites around Armazi—what would make a person think that he could appease what he considered to be gods by murdering a human being and then discarding him like so much rubbish?
What God hath wrought- through Christ! Mongolian pagan altars have also remind me of these sacrifices, and before we get too sanctimonious in the West, don’t get me started on our modern equivalent of abortion. But here the place was so silent and the landscape stunning. It led me to wonder all the more how God, addressing His rebellious children, sent His Son who became The Sacrifice for us all. “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners,” Paul tells us in Romans 5:8, “Christ died for us.” He didn’t find a scapegoat; He didn’t toss so many human bodies off a mountainside. He, the Son who participated in the Creation of the universe, Himself became The Sacrifice. Now, words fail me but in a most grace-filled sense!
How Christ comes to us in the Present One week previously, I had the opportunity to share with our Lutheran believers in Kutaisi how our present sufferings will not compare with the glory that our Lord Jesus will reveal to us. After the preaching of the Word, we had the chance to partake of the Eucharist, where our Lord came to us in His body and blood. After my trip to Armzai, I was grateful that much has changed in Georgia throughout the centuries. Pagan rituals of human sacrifice, a brutal communist regime for close to seventy years, all of this has given way to an opportunity to share the
forgiveness and peace that Christ brings to us through His Word and Sacrament.
Prayer Requests: I have two prayer requests for health. Pastor Alexey Shepelov had a minor stroke recently but is now recovering in Moscow. This stroke had nothing to do with the recent successful brain surgery he had in Israel. I hope to see him in October.
Please also pray for Cousin Shawn. She is getting discouraged and the health reports have not been good lately. I had the chance to see her and her kids this summer in Kansas City, as well as her mother. (Her mother is my first cousin; Shawn is my first cousin, once removed). It was a joy to visit with them and pray for her. Please keep Shawn and Alexey in your prayers, praying for good health and God’s peace.
Please pray for my flight to St. Petersburg on Thursday from Tbilisi through Kiev. Also pray for my upcoming class on the New Testament at the Ingrian Lutheran Seminary in Russia.