- Acts of the Apostles 16:9-15
- Psalm 67
- The Revelation to John 21:10, 22 – 22:5
- John 14:23-29 OR John 5:1-9
The Spirit is at work as Paul continues to spread the news of the Risen Lord. Paul has had a vision in which a man pleads for him to come to Macedonia. He heeds the vision as a genuine call from God, and travels to the Roman colony of Philippi, one of the major cities of Macedonia.
On the Sabbath, Paul speaks to a group of women gathered by the river, including a woman named Lydia, a “worshiper of God” and a “dealer of purple cloth” (16:14a). As one one worshiped God, she might have been either a devout Jew or perhaps a Gentile “god fearer.”
She was very receptive to Paul’s message: “The Lord opened her heart” (v. 14b). Lydia’s faith becomes immediately active: she is baptized along with her whole household, and she opens her home. Social and cultural barriers crumble, and this corner of the empire is beginning to be changed by God’s grace. The author says that Lydia “prevailed upon” Paul and his companions to stay with her and accept her hospitality. There is only one other place in the New Testament where this word is used: in Emmaus on Easter evening, as the two traveling disciples urged the risen Jesus to stay with them that night (Luke 24:29).
Perhaps the verbal echo is not accidental; by lives transformed and opened up in faithful discipleship, the fellowship of the risen Lord continues to extend into the world. Here near the end of the Easter season, we continue to experience and to live out that fellowship, “prevailing upon” the world to hear, and see, and know the mercy of God in the risen Christ.
Lydia and her household were baptized in a manner reminiscent of the baptism performed by Peter in the household of Cornelius in Acts 10. Just as Cornelius was the first Gentile convert in Acts, Lydia was the first European convert.
What do we know of Lydia? Who was she?
In a group of women listening to Paul and his companions, Lydia is highlighted in three ways. She is a worshipper of God, a native of Thyatira, as well as a purveyor of purple cloth. The first designation identifies her as one of a number of individuals in Luke-Acts with a faithful tendancy towards the God of Israel (Acts 13:43; 17:17; 18:7 among others). These are individuals who seem interested in “this” God though they are not identified as Jews and thus are on the margins of the faith. Second, the naming of her hometown is an unexpected twist; despite the fact that a Macedonian man beckons the help of Paul, it is a foreign woman who first has God open her heart to faith! Finally, her profession is perhaps an indication of her unusual social class and powerful status.
The narrative ends with a note of generous hospitality. For Lydia a natural result of her and her household’s receiving of the good news is to welcome these erstwhile strangers into her home. Being a wealthy woman, Lydia’s patronage would have been important to Paul’s ministry in Philippi. She is an example of how key women provided financial resources for the emerging Christian community.
- What does hospitality mean to you?
- How is hospitality connected to stewardship?
- What do you think Jesus means when he says that “we will . . . make our home with them” (v. 23b)? In what ways have you seen evidence of the indwelling presence of God in your life and in the lives of those around you?