Let us pray: How inadequate are my words, O Lord; yet breathe understanding into these scriptures and send us your Holy Spirit to teach us everything and remind us of all that you have said. May the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer.
Paul and his companions are led by a male figure in a vision to go and help the Macedonians, which we would place in current day Greece-thus the first contact of Christianity on the European continent. There, they go in search of a place of prayer where, no doubt, like-minded Hebrew and/or Gentile God-worshipers might be found. They go along the river to seek it. The Greek word for “place of prayer” used here could mean several things. A building, similar to a synagogue, but it could also mean an open-air gathering place much like what we might think of when we read about “camp meetings” from days of yore.
Here the author records a curious thing. Paul and his companions do not go into a synagogue building, as was Paul’s custom in his missionary travels; instead they find a group of women in this place of prayer. Instead of looking beyond them to find the men, which the Jewish culture of the time would dictate, Paul sits down with the women. The Greek word used here for sitting down and speaking is a teaching pose-as would normally be found within the men’s group inside a synagogue when the Rabbi prepares to speak. Indeed, it is even the same word we read when Jesus “sat down” in his home synagogue to begin his teaching there. Enter Lydia, an independently wealthy businesswoman. Commentator Ronald Cole-Turner reflects,
“It almost did not happen, this meeting of the businesswoman and the missionaries, and it surely would not have happened were it not for the inexplicable convergence of human faithfulness and divine guidance. Paul and Lydia and the Holy Spirit all work together in this event, this “chance” encounter by the river. Paul would not have been guided to this place at this moment, were he not first of all at God’s disposal, open to being guided, sensitively attuned to being steered in one direction and away from all others. Lydia would not have arrived at this place or time, had she not first of all been a worshiper of God, a seeker already on her way.”
We read, “The Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul” (vs. 14). Again in the words of Ronald Cole-Turner,
“God opened her heart, and immediately she opened her home. Apparently without any hesitation, she is baptized and turns her house into a base for the spread of Christianity in Europe. Almost as if in a single action, her faith leads to baptism, which [immediately results in] hospitality and in sharing in all the risks of the mission enterprise. What is remarkable for us is how decisive Lydia appears to be. Unlike so many of us, she sees the truth before her and decides what course to take, and it is done.”
I’m not sure she’d be cut out for our current model of committee work in the church, do you? Cole goes on:
“Lydia is decisive because she is discerning, able to see through the events on the surface to the deeper workings of God’s Spirit. She is discerning because God has opened her heart to a new level of perception. God has given her this ability to perceive because she comes to worship. She comes to worship because she is hungering for something more in life, something beyond the commercial success she has apparently achieved. She is hungering for more because that restless Spirit, who is surely in us all before we ever know it, has stirred up a holy longing in her soul.”
That is the kind of holy longing I hope for in all members of this faith community. I pray that each and every one of us experience holy longing to be all that God has called us to be. To date, I still dream of the day that discernment will come that clearly and quickly to me. That kind of faithful discernment is a direct gift of God and, when found, should be celebrated!
Certainly, many if not most of us have had careers-some more than one-and some quite successful over the years. Yet here we are, found in this place on a Sunday morning, looking for … what? For God to fill us up with something more satisfying than the life we have been leading? Something we can hold onto? Or, perhaps something that catapults us all into the realm of deeply satisfying meaning, service and love?
What are your holy longings? Do you ache for the children of the valley? Are you called to serve as foster parents? Do you love serving others? Do you cook? Do you walk? Do you give generously of your time, talents, and experiences?
Have you thought about the legacy you will leave those you love and leave behind? Do you actively seek ways to be of service for the greater good? I would urge you to prayerfully consider these things; for in prayer holy longing is ignited, and when we submit ourselves to God’s holy longing for us, it is then we find our own longings fulfilled.
Let us pray: Holy Lamb upon the throne, show us your glory so that we may know the glory of God. Good Shepherd who is the Lamb, teach us your way so that we may follow you all our lives. Beloved of God, grant us your love so that we may truly love one another and all that you have made. All this we pray in your holy name. Amen? May it be so.
 Cole-Turner, Ronald. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 2: Lent through Eastertide.