Summary: We can become passionate about Kingdom work if we will first listen eagerly to God’s word; then take a step of commitment (feelings follow facts and faith); and maintain the passion by surrounding ourselves with God’s people. Then we will prevail in our
Passionate people are frightening, and yet I admire them. I like passionate people, whose feelings run very deep. But they are scary. They remind me that it is possible to go out of control and to commit to things so intensely that we lose sight of everything else. That scares me. That sort of passion can produce suicide squads to hijack planes and send them into the Twin Towers. Passion!
And yet I admire passion too. I admire passion because I know that the world is not going to be changed by people who just take things as they come, the bitter with the sweet, and lazily lounge around. I admire passion, intensity, burning hot within someone’s soul, but also reaching out and drawing others. Passion it gets things done.
Recently one of our church leaders said that she had observed that few of us appear to be passionate people. We don’t emote, we don’t get intense, we don’t shout, we don’t clap. We are quiet. We are not, she said, passionate people, and especially we are not passionate about Kingdom business and witness.
My first reaction was, well, she has not been in some of the meetings I’ve been in; and second, that passion shows up in various ways, not all of them noisy. I used to be a member of a church in Silver Spring, and the same thing was said about that church – no passion for much of anything. But someone said, “Oh, we get passionate. We get excited. We just do it quietly so that no one will ever know!” Hmm …
What do you feel deeply about? What do you feel passionate about? Does it scare you when intense feelings stir? Do you have a hands-off reaction if you are around someone who expresses strong, powerful feelings? And, if I were to suggest to you today that we ought to feel and indeed can feel passionate intensity about Kingdom work, what would you say?
Play with me on this a little while. I want to think with you about passionate feelings. I have a little phrase I want to work with: “purple passion”. “Purple passion.” Now what does that mean? What is that about, besides the fact that it is a neat alliteration?
Curiously, the color purple is often associated with passionate feelings, intensity. It goes way back, well before Elizabeth Taylor began marketing purple perfume. It’s earlier than a grape-hued dinosaur named Barney chanting, “I love you, you love me.” Purple passion – I expect it has to do with the way your face and your neck color up when the adrenalin flows and the heart pumps hard. “Purple passion” means exceptional, tremendous conviction.
Back in the fifties I remember a silly song about “Purple People-Eaters”; the name attached itself to the Minnesota Vikings football team, whose intense style of play was symbolized by their purple uniforms. A few years later, Alice Walker wrote her book, The Color Purple, which explores the profound feelings of African-American women in emotionally charged settings. Purple passion! I had a professor in college who thought my writing style was too flowery, too wordy, just plain too much – and he would write on my papers, “Leave out the purple prose.” He meant I was way over the top. And the one I like best of all – in the those churches which have bishops, typically bishops wear purple shirts; so pastors who are ambitious to be elected as bishops are said to have caught “purple fever.” I like that!
So – are you still playing with me? Let’s talk about passion, purple passion. There was, in the city of Philippi, in the ancient colony of Macedonia, a woman named Lydia. Lydia was a businesswoman – a seller of purple. That means that she traded in purple cloth, the finest and the most expensive material available. She was the Saks Fifth Avenue of Philippi – trading in purple.
Something happened to Lydia one day. She had been bopping along through life, fat and sassy and perfectly happy, but something happened to the lady who sold purple. She got her passion stirred up! I guess, you might say, Lydia went into a purple passion! How did it happen?
Lydia’s journey to a passionate life started when she let the Spirit of God transform ordinary worship into extraordinary openness. Lydia’s calm life began to find a new dimension because Lydia opened her heart and listened eagerly – there’s a passionate word – she listened eagerly to the word of God.
A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; … The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul.
Lydia started a journey toward purple passion because she was willing to be open for the Lord to say something new and direct to her. For Lydia, who, according to the text, was already a worshiper, already a praying person, it would have been easy to have said, “Ah, one more Sabbath. They’re all the same. Go and sit and smile and go home.” But Lydia came to “church” that day with an open heart and an eagerly listening mind. She came expecting God to speak to her – not just to the world in general, but to her.