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Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Today’s Reading | Acts 11:1–18
We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us. (NRSV)
I love this story of Lydia for many reasons. Recently I preached a sermon about Lydia and how important it was that Paul didn’t come to Macedonia only willing to encounter God in the way he expected. Lydia is surprising in her faith and leadership because she is a woman and a Macedonian, but it is her faith that provides a gateway for Christianity to spread to a whole new world. Lydia’s story reminds us that God doesn’t only work through people and situations that we expect.
It’s important to note, however, that just as Paul had to be open to encountering God in Lydia, Lydia had to be open to Paul. And she is. Surprisingly radically open. One of the things I love most about Lydia is the radical hospitality she offers in the name of her faith.
Lydia encounters these strange men at her own place of prayer and business. They are unfamiliar to her and no doubt carry assumptions about her. She could be wary and dismissive, but she isn’t. She is not only open to the words of Paul; she is eager to be joined in community with him. She has her whole household baptized and then absolutely insists that Paul and his party stay at her house while they seek to grow and build the church. Imagine if our own world—with all its fearful prejudice—were as open to welcoming one another and building a community of faith together. Imagine the ways that faith and love might blossom and give birth to a whole new kind of world. Let us seek to be as faithful as Lydia and as open to unexpected movement of the Spirit.
Holy God, we give you thanks for your presence in our lives and in our world. Help us to constantly encounter you in new ways and new people, and help us seek to love them as you love all of us. Amen.
Written by Layton Williams, Pastoral Resident
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