Lydia

Bulletin-TL 05-26-2019 YC E6

Scriptures: Acts 16:9-15

Let us pray:

We believe, Lord, that you are here, present. Although our eyes do not see you, our faith senses you. Take any stray thoughts from our minds. Enable us to understand the truths you desire to teach us today. Empower us to put them into practice. Your servants are listening; speak, Lord, to our souls… Amen.

Very little is known about Lydia the person. More is known about Lydia the region from which she came. The scripture tells us she is from Thyatira, which was a town in western Asia Minor, or what is now Turkey, on the Aegean Sea. This location was known to be a producer of both textiles and purple dye.[1] Scripture tells us Lydia was living in Philippi, Macedonia, current day Greece, where Paul finds her along the river with women at a place of prayer. Scripture identifies her as a “God worshiper,” meaning a Gentile attracted to Judaism, but not yet ready to make the full commitment of conversion.”[2]

We can glean a few more insights here. In those days, for there to be an official Jewish synagogue, or meeting place, there would have to have been 10 or more Jewish men to establish one.[3] Since there was none, and they met along the river at a “place of prayer,” not a synagoga, at first contact, this is a tiny unrecognized Jewish outpost with not enough community members to officially form a proper assembly. As a “God worshiper,” Lydia is already primed to hear more about the ways of God. So she is more than ready to hear from Paul.

Why is she so fascinating? Is it that she seems to be both a “contemplative Mary and active Martha”[4] rolled into one? Is it that she is a “narrative icon…[with]…her heart set on God even while her work gest done?”[5] Or is it that she is a “dealer in purple cloth,” and thus an independently wealthy businesswoman in a man’s world? In Philippi, a town of retired Roman army officers, she was accustomed to dealing with the elite class who were allowed to wear the color purple,”[6] so her business would have been highly successful and sought after.

Whatever allures us, we are presented with this tantalizing character, and through her the church is born in Europe at her house. Paul speaks and she is moved to the point of immediate baptism, she and her entire household. What can we learn about this?

First, Paul was a much better preacher than I am! Second, and more importantly, both he and Lydia were open to being guided by God’s Spirit, no matter where it led.

Third, they were both “sensitively attuned to being steered in one direction and away from others.”

Fourth, “The Lord opened her heart to give heed…” (vs. 14).

Looked at another way, “Longing and grace meet there on the bank of the river. The longing heart of a faithful woman is opened by the gracious impulse of a faith-giving God…”[7]

Hearing leads to baptism, which leads to hospitality and mission almost in one breath. Indeed, if we look at it from that perspective, we can almost hear the ruah eloheim, or, the Breath of God both inhale into Lydia’s spirit then exhale through her entire being, household and very life.

I love this about Lydia: 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. Every step of the way, the Spirit prompts and calls and blesses her and, through her, blesses us.”[8]

Let us put these insights into perspective for a moment. Here we are a couple thousand years later, marking in our liturgical calendars the sixth Sunday of Easter. “In the season of Easter we ask: What do we do now that Jesus is risen? … The book of Acts follows the outgrowth of ministry in the early church as a fruit of the resurrection.”[9] How does this apply to us, we may ask?

“In Philippi, Paul follows the weekly tradition of Sabbath prayer, which is how he meets Lydia. We are reminded of the basic power of relationships in ministry, and how each person adds to the capacity for ministry within the community. With each convert and each travel stop, the church was becoming more diverse in culture and geography.    How do we identify the places where people are waiting to hear the word? In our visions, do we hear the calls to come over, and do we have courage enough to cross over and help?”[10]

I will leave that answer up to you.

Let us pray:

Holy God, you have opened our hearts to hear you. Now lead us to the places you would have us go to be your true disciples. In the name of Him who lived, died and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.

Questions for Reflection

When Lydia hears the gospel, she becomes the first Christian in Europe. Led by the Spirit, Lydia’s faith is decisive and her witness is immediate. The word opens her heart in love, and she opens her house in hospitality in service of the gospel. How might Lydia’s witness excite your sense of ministry and mission this day? Where might you find someone searching for God’s word?

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Household Prayer: Morning

Holy Spirit,
enliven in us a faith and witness like Lydia’s,
that through deepened prayer
we might rise to action in service of the gospel. Amen.

Household Prayer: Evening

God, it is night and the time for rest has come. We have served you in love this day
and for this we give you thanks.
Do not leave us comfortless, but send your Spirit to abide with us as we trust in you this night. Amen.

[1] Lynne Alcott Kogel, “Lydia: PLACE,” Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000) All rights reserved. Electronic text hypertexted and prepared by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 3.7

[2] Paul W. Walaskay, “Exegetical Perspective, Acts 16:9-15” in Feasting on the Word – Year C, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[3] JoAnn Ford Watson, “Lydia: PERSON,” Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000) All rights reserved. Electronic text hypertexted and prepared by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 3.7

[4] Ronald Cole-Turner, “Theological Perspective, Acts 16:9-15” in Feasting on the Word – Year C, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[5] Ibid.

[6] Paul W. Walaskay, “Exegetical Perspective, Acts 16:9-15” in Feasting on the Word – Year C, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Richard M. Landers, “Homiletical Perspective, Acts 16:9-15” in Feasting on the Word – Year C, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[10] Ibid.

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
This entry was posted in Conversation Starters, Encouragement, Sermon. Bookmark the permalink.

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