given on Sunday, May 8, 2016–7th Sunday of Easter and Mothers’ Day
Scripture connection: Acts 16:13-15, NLT
3 On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. 14 One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. 15 She and her household were baptized, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed.
Just three verses share the story of Lydia, so why is Lydia even mentioned? Well, Lydia said yes to God. Lydia defied the social and cultural norms, yet she extended hospitality to Paul and Silas as they boldly crossed a cultural boundary:
6 Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. 7 Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia,[b] but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. 8 So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas.
9 That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” 10 So we[c] decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.
The communities listed in these verses are unfamiliar to us sitting here in west central Missouri, but remember that the ancient region is geographically about the size of Missouri. Traveling on foot, the two disciples depended on the hospitality of the local faithful. In the Jewish culture, the men typically made decisions; but Paul and Silas crossed the border into Macedonia, a Greek culture not a Jewish culture, and there was no Jewish temple and it was the Sabbath. What were they to do?
These two Jewish men had already accepted Jesus as their savior and were called to share the message with others. The trip to Macedonia was the second mission trip, but this trip crossed into Macedonia, a European country rather than Asian. This fact might not seem significant, but Luke did and included it.
Lydia said yes to God and demonstrated hospitality to the two weary missionaries. The importance of Lydia’s invitation is detailed in the study notes and accredits Lydia as the first European Christian. Lydia said yes to God. Do we?
How many times do we get an idea to do something that may seem a bit out of the norm? Maybe it is just something we want to do for ourselves, but we cannot let go of the idea. As kids, we often turned to our mothers with the question “Mother, may I. . . “
Mothers are our first teachers. We depend on them for the most basic needs of food, clothing and shelter. We turn to them when we fall and hurt ourselves. We learn right and wrong. Mothers guide us and test us preparing us for independent life. As we grow up and become independent, our mothers’ words echo through our minds as we make life decisions. Sometimes we call and reconnect, even asking, “Mother, may I . . .
Lydia is a mother of Christianity. She said yes to God’s call and continued life as a successful businessperson. She made her living manufacturing and selling purple cloth. Today that may not sound impressive, but during ancient times this was an elite product and catered to those with money. Lydia was atypical to the Jewish culture and made her decisions independently. Lydia was a leader in the community and she said yes to God.
Do you say yes to God? Does our church say yes to God? Successful businesses find ways to meet customer needs and tweak their advertising, their product, and their service in an effort to assure success. Lydia did this in her business and she did it as a Christian, too. Saying yes to God comes naturally even in unexpected settings and through unexpected experiences.
Paul and Silas did not expect to find Lydia when they crossed the border. Yet, they followed God’s call to share the message in ways that were new and unfamiliar. Like Lydia, Paul and Silas said yes to God. Do we say yes to God?
What called you to church this morning? Maybe attending church started because Mom made you go. Do you know your mom’s faith story? Maybe the key was your dad’s or a friend’s faith story? Something called you to church and you said yes.
When did God call you to church? Did God’s call to you begin simply because you went to your parents’ church, or did your faith journey begin differently? What invited you to open the church doors and step in? Something made you say yes to God.
There really is no difference in the story of Lydia and our very own story. God wants to be in our lives, we just have to say yes. Whether we were first brought to church by our moms and dads, the Holy Spirit has asked us to stay and we said yes. As a church, are we asking others to say yes to God?
Christians are called to service and summer is here. Let’s make this a “summer of service” in as many ways as possible. Of course there is Sunday’s worship service, but review the worship of our ancestors and how worship has changed over the centuries. What invites today’s generation to church?
Service has so many different faces. There is worship service, but there is the hands-on form of service. What is the history of the church’s service? Has it changed? Of course it has changed. One surprise I learned recently is how the church of my grandparents became the origin of the Women’s Temperance League. I had learned that my own grandmother was actively involved in this movement, but I did not know the purpose of the league until Rev. Jeremy Bassett explained it.
The temperance league began as a social movement against alcoholism. The mothers fought for prohibition because alcoholism in the household was leading to physical abuse of fathers toward their children. Included in the movement was the drive to establish kindergarten in an effort to get kids out of the house where the abuse was happening.
This new knowledge changed the paradigm of my own history. I talked to my aunt and asked her about this. She remembered when Grandma would host the temperance league in her house. I asked if alcoholism had been a problem within the family that was pure German. My aunt was not sure, but when I shared what I had learned and that I was always curious how a German family culturally never consumed beer or any alcohol. She mused and considered that there might be some rationale in that, but she was not sure.
The “summer of service” may not mean establishing a temperance league, but it means identifying a problem and looking for a solution. In our community, the children are asking, “Mother, may I . . .” and the answer needs to be “Sure you can go to church.”
Let’s keep the focus on the needs of our children and the community. When someone arrives at our door, lets invite them in much like Lydia invited Paul and Silas to join in worship. There was no Jewish temple, but Lydia was the mother of Christianity and she invited these two Jewish, Asian missionaries to join her in worship. She said yes to God and her hospitality opened the European borders to Christianity; and from there it has grown into the global religion it is today.
Mother Lydia, may we follow your example? It is time for us to serve one another in God’s name. It is summer time and we are called to serve. How we serve may be as simple as opening the door during the week and being present. Movie nights for the community youth are examples of hospitality and serving. The Chilhowee Fair concession is hospitality and serving, too.
God is calling us to serve one another in love. If God calls you to serve in one fashion or another, just say yes. The church is available. Just say yes if God asks you to serve. If you need a team, ask. If funding is a problem, ask. The money for a ministry may have to have the council’s approval; but if not, just say yes to God. Make this summer one of service.
Summer is approaching and school will be out.
People will be on the move day in and day out.
Sometimes it is difficult to see how to serve,
But you call us to serve.
Help us to hear your call as Paul and Silas did.
Help us to find ways to serve in today’s world.
Help us to follow Lydia’s example of hospitality.
Help us answer those cries, “Mother, may I?”
Guide us in learning how to serve.
Guide us in identifying issues needing us.
Guide us in working together in your name.
Guide us in sharing your love.
Thank you for Lydia serving with hospitality.
Thank you for moms faithfully teaching us.
Thank you for calling us into your service.
Thank you for a summer to serve others with love. –Amen