We all have responsibility for ensuring that the gospel – God’s Good News – is passed on throughout the world, starting with our own neighbourhoods, and here in the city centre. In various ways we can all live lives and shape our world in line with the Kingdom or Reign of God. We may not always feel up to it but with the resources we each have we can together help make this happen.
In today’s gospel reading, John 14:23-29, and as was the case last Sunday, we hear Jesus giving final instructions to his disciples to commission them to continue his work. He is about to leave them and he wants to ensure that his followers are confident, capable and willing to take his message further. In today’s reading from Acts 16:9-15, we see an example of the fruit of their missionary work in the ministry of Paul with the response of Lydia and her household.
In our baptism we are given a candle and asked to “shine as a light in the world.” We may not feel like shining. We may sometimes feel inadequate but we do not need to feel this way. It is in God that we live and move and have our being. It is God’s work that we are called to be part of – we don’t want our own agendas and egos to get in the way of it.
Let us listen again to these words of Jesus to his disciples, and to us today too: “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them…. [T]he Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. …Do not let your
hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” These are certainly comporting and empowering words. We start by loving God and accepting God’s love for us. The Holy Spirit will help us with what we need and do. We should not to be fearful.
We have a lovely story in the Acts reading today of the work of God. Paul is given a vision to go to Macedonia in Greece to meet a man who asks for help. So Paul travels to Philippi with Silas, Luke and Timothy and they end up instead meeting a fascinating woman called Lydia. It is only in this chapter that we encounter Lydia in the bible but she is a significant woman who plays a strategic role in the growth of the church.
Lydia: Trader and Person of Faith
On the Sabbath Paul and Silas went outside the city gates of Philippi to the river, a place of prayer. Perhaps there was no synagogue in the city in which to preach. By the river they met a group of women. And it is Lydia who is singled out. Lydia is described as “a dealer in purple cloth.” We understand that Philippi was situated on the trade routes. Lydia probably had a roaring trade and it is possible that she also sold these fabrics dyed with rare and expensive dyes to kings, emperors and high ranking officials and become a successful business women, financially independent we would say.
But Lydia is also described as “a worshipper of God.” As a “God–fearing” woman she takes time out from her business for prayer. The Sabbath was not a public holiday in those days – people traded every day; I suppose many do so today too. She is obviously seeking a deeper experience of God and listens carefully to Paul’s message.
The results of Lydia’s response are quite significant. She responds readily to the gospel, the invitation to follow in the way of Jesus. She does not want her household to miss out and takes a lead and has her whole household baptised as well. Furthermore she responds generously by persuading Paul and his travelling companions to stay at her home – it must have been quite a spacious house to accommodate these four extra men. Lydia had the gift of hospitality. Not all of us like other people in our space. Lydia’s household becomes the first house church in that region, the first in fact in
Europe and her home then becomes a base for the gathering of Christians and for further mission. Lydia is mentioned again at the end of this chapter. After being arrested, beaten and jailed and later freed through the intervention of earthquake, Paul and Silas are freed from prison. We read in verse 40: “After leaving the prison they went to Lydia’s home.” She obviously welcomes them back into her home, again no doubt with her
gracious hospitality. There were a number of women who had supported Jesus in his ministry in various ways; Lydia is another example of a woman who plays an important role in the missionary activity of the church.
What about us? What do we have to offer God and the church? How can we use what we have to be part of the ongoing work of God in our community and the world? Last week I took a car load of clothes and water to the Diocesan office as part of St Paul’s response to the Diocese Flood relief appeal. There is money to be transferred too. You have made a generous, loving and compassionate response. An area of particular need at the moment is for people to use their gifts and skills in for our children’s ministry which we are working on restarting. If God is perhaps calling you to this please speak
to me about it.
We all have a role to play; God calls us to some ministry to further the spread of the gospel. We may not be well off like Lydia but we all have something valuable, however small it may seem to us. Let us offer it to God in faith that we may each make a difference in the world. Our simple faith is enough. Remember God can do great things though us. Amen