Summary: Women have to wear so many "hats!" Lydia was the same way so many centuries ago, but find out which "hat" she considered to be most important...
Sermon 050910 Mother’s Day
Happy Mother’s Day! I hope many of you have started the day well, maybe breakfast in bed, or getting to sleep in a little, or maybe just a card or flowers. Mother’s Day is a great day! And it just so happens that we have a great mother to talk about today from our Bible Readings. As we’ve gone through the book of Acts following Easter, we’ve met up with a number of remarkable people, and today is no different. Today we meet Lydia. There is a lot you can say about her, but one of the most important things is that Lydia ends up being the first Christian to live in Europe! And with many of us being of European descent, that is a pretty big deal.
What is interesting, is that if it were up to Paul and the other guys on the missionary journey, we might never had heard of Lydia. They were all set to go toward the coast of Asia and then on to Bithynia, and that made sense, these places were the logical next steps. But God said, “No.” Acts says, “the Holy Spirit kept them from preaching the word in the province of Asia,” and when they, “tried to enter the Bithynia, the Spirit of Jesus would not let them.” “What’s going on?” must have been the big question bouncing around in their minds. What is it that God has in store?
Well, he told them. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. Not the move that they had planned on making, but they went (there is a whole sermon here, but we won’t get into that right now).
Anyways, the boat goes to the island of Samothrace, then next day they land at Neopolis, and then they head right for Philippi, as Luke describes it in our reading, “A leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony.” A good place to go, no doubt! But I can’t help that they got there, all fired up after rushing to get there, and then though, “OK, now what!?” They were there for, “some days” before anything ever happened.
But they asked around apparently, to find out where the Synagogue was. And the response they got, I imagine, more often than not was, “What’s a Synagogue?” And even if they knew, they probably wouldn’t have said anything. Just a short while earlier, the Roman Emperor Claudius had expelled all of the Jews from Rome. And if there was one thing that the Philippians prided themselves on more than any other, it was the high rank and title bestowed upon their city by Rome. They were not Italian, but Rome considered them so (might have had just a little with the vast amounts of gold they had, but mostly, I’m sure, because they were fine people). So we can only assume that after hearing of Claudius’ ruling about the Jews, the leadership in Philippi would have tripped over themselves in their haste to kick the Jews out of Philippi as well.
So there wasn’t much there for the disciples. They must have thought, “why would God lead us HERE of all places?” But the Sabbath came, and this group of four men headed out toward the Gangites River, about a mile outside of town, to the only place they could guess that Jews might be meeting, a small synagogue or something. Well, there was no synagogue. They didn’t have the 10 Jewish men required to have a synagogue. In fact, there were no men there that day at all. There was a small group of women, meeting to pray.
The reading goes right on to tell us about Lydia, and we’ll get to her. But we need to stop here for a second, and talk about these women. I wish I had their names, every one of them. Because they are among the great heroes of the faith. They are the ones we need to learn from in the times in which we live. They were faith warriors. They had every reason to give up, every excuse for not meeting anymore handed to them on a silver platter. The men were no longer there, there was no church, there was no possibility of having a synagogue, the Romans were always either persecuting, or threatening to persecute the Jews, and sticking to their faith was not going to win them any popularity contests in Philippi. But yet, they came to the river. Every Saturday they came to meet, to pray, to carry on their faith. If that doesn’t get your heart pumping, I don’t know what would.