Sermon:
The seller of purple
We heard in the second lesson about the meeting between Paul and a woman called Lydia in the city of Philippi. And we were told that Lydia was a dealer in purple cloth. Now, on the whole I prefer modern translations of the Bible, but they let us down a bit here. The old Authorized Version, sticking closely to the Greek, says that she’s a seller of purple. Just that. A seller of purple.

What does purple mean to you? What does it say? Maybe it makes you think of the first line from that poem by Jenny Joseph - "when I am an old woman I shall wear purple, with a red hat, which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me". A dramatic colour, but a dangerous colour. Easy to go a bit over the top.

It’s that moment in every episode of Changing Rooms where the designer prises open the lids of the paint tins and the participants gasp in horror - because almost invariably one of them is a violent shade of purple, especially if Laurence Llewellyn Bowen’s involved. It’s not a colour you can ignore, purple.

The cost of purple
These days we’re used to being able to get any colour we want. If you’re attracted, rather than repulsed, by the decor on Changing Rooms you can take your purple cushion cover into Homebase, they’ll scan it into a machine, and mix up a paint exactly the same colour. If you want a shirt or a blouse in a shop they have all of the colours in all of the sizes.

It didn’t used to be like that. Dyes were natural, not synthetic, and the dye for purple was made from a juice found in minute quantities in shellfish. It took thousands of crustaceans to make a yard or two of purple cloth. So it was very expensive, worth its weight in silver it was said. It was a statement of status and wealth, the Gucci handbag or the Rolex watch of Roman times.

Lydia
And that’s what Lydia is selling. She’s selling purple; purple cloth, purple robes, the power of purple. She’s not local. She’s from Thyatira, a town well known for making purple cloth. She seems to be the head of her household, there’s no husband around, even though she’s a travelling trader. And if she’s a seller of purple, she’s not poor, because she couldn’t have afforded her stock.

She’s not Jewish, but she believes in God. She’s what the Jews knew as a ’Godfearer’ - someone who worships in the synagogue, but hasn’t coverted completely to Judaism.

But to have a synagogue you need ten men who will meet together to say prayers. Phillipi, it seems, doesn’t have a synagogue. If there’s no synagogue, then any Jews that happen to be in the town or passing through know to meet near the river on the sabbath to pray. That’s where Lydia goes, and it’s where Paul and Silas go too.

Paul
So here is this rich, confident woman, meeting Paul for the first time. Who was never rich, and must have been anything but confident at that point in his ministry.

It had all started so well. Paul and Barnabas had travelled through Asia, founding churches and setting people on fire
Elizabeth Harrington Smith
May 18, 2014
Looks like I'm just finding out about this site. A tiny bio of me: As a young child God put in me a desire to know Him. I came from a very disfunction all family as they refer to it today. I walked to the closest church, including Catholic. I always felt like a sinner bound for hell, so as a young teen, I made the decision to leave the church resorting to drugs and alcohol and cigarettes. The Jesus movement was in full swing as I watched from a distance young people surrendering to Christ and speaking in tongues on the beach. A friend of mine told me of a bible fellowship that was meeting in an apartment on

July 16, 2011
Very helpful sermon. Just what I needed to share with my wife today. Thank you so much.
Karl Dahlin
August 11, 2007
Yes, I really like teaching sermons. I was made to easily understand cultural context that would otherwise have gone unnoticed in this scripture passage. Well done! I would want to add a bit more emphasis on a call to action, especially at the end.
Steve Holder
September 15, 2006
This is a great sermon. I really enjoyed it. I am preparing a sermon on Acts 16 myself and this was helpful.