Summary: The story about the Sisters of Lazarus help us to develop a response to suffering.
She was a successful business woman, actually she was a successful business owner and that was virtually unheard of in the time and society she lived in. Remember this was 2000 years ago in a culture that was slightly male centered; actually it was very male centered. Females weren’t exactly chattel but they weren’t exactly equals either. And here was a woman who was not identified by whose wife she was instead she was identified by what she did. She wasn’t Lydia Bob’s wife she was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth.
And she was a woman who had an appointment with destiny. It was the Sabbath and Lydia had gathered with a group of women to pray at the edge of the river that flowed past the city of Philippi, if we pull down our trusty map here we discover that Philippi, which was named after Phillip the father of Alexander the Great, was located here in what we know as Greece and this is actually the first place that the Gospel was preached in Europe, and it would appear that Lydia was the first convert in Europe. We are told that she was from Thyatira, which is across the Aegean Sea in what we now know as Turkey. And we know that she was a specialized merchant, she sold purple cloth, a cloth that was worn by royalty and the wealthy families. The city of Thyatira was famous throughout Asia for the purple dye they produced and Lydia had obviously capitalized on this and was now marketing her fabric in Europe using the city of Philippi as her base.
And it was to the City of Philippi that Paul and his companions had come after leaving Asia. As was their tradition they immediately sought out the closest Jewish community to teach about Jesus. In this case there was no synagogue in town, probably because the Jewish community wasn’t large enough, instead the people gathered alongside the river on the Sabbath to pray and worship together. And this is where Lydia first encountered Paul and consequently encountered Jesus.
So how did this happen? First of all Lydia was in the The Right Place I know that we can meet God anywhere. That we can worship God on the golf course or at the hockey rink or fishing on the lake. We can but we don’t. If God’s name is used on the golf course, it’s normally not in positive way, not to say it couldn’t be.
There is something to be said about sacred spaces, about church. That’s why the Israelites had the tabernacle in the wilderness and the temple in Jerusalem. God knew the value of there being a spot where you could leave the world outside for a little while and focus on God. Oh and by the way if you want to see the precedent for our building on faith offering then just read in the Old Testament how much the people of Israel contributed to make the tabernacle and temple a reality.
That’s why we built this Church. Now you know and I know that the Church is not a building it is the people in the building, but if you were to ask any one of the people who worshipped with us during the ten and a half years we met at the Lions Den or Empire Theatre in Bedford I am sure they will tell you this is different. And different in a good way. And there are those of your who have met God here and have been changed, it is the right place. King David wrote in Psalm 55:14 What good fellowship we enjoyed as we walked together to the house of God.
Now I know that Lydia and her companions weren’t in a “Church” building but they were at a spot that they had set aside for prayer and worship, they weren’t there fishing, or swimming or boating they had gone to the river to seek God. Here is a photo of the actual river where this happened.
Not only was Lydia in the right place but she was there at The Right Time It all came together, we’ve all been there, perhaps you’ve been in church a hundred times but then it happened, you knew the time was right. I don’t know how many times my best friend has spoken to me about my need for God but it was on September 2nd 1979 at 8:15 p.m. that I met with God and he forgave my sins. It was the right time.
Charles Spurgeon was a London Preacher in the late 1800’s and he had this to say “She (Lydia) was a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, but just at the right time for hearing Paul we find her at Philippi; providence, which is the handmaid of grace, led her to the right spot.” The week before Paul wasn’t there, a week later and he wasn’t there but that day he was. If Lydia had decided to sleep in that morning, or go to the flea market, or mow the lawn or spend the day at the beach she would have missed it. But it was the Sabbath and she had gone to meet God and she did. There is a great promise in the book of Jeremiah 29:11-13 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me.