Readings: Acts 16:9-15; Psalm 67; Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5; John 14: 23-29
In our reading this morning from the Acts of the Apostles we learn of St. Paul and his companion, Silas, leaving the familiar ground, being invited, through a vision, into Greece, onto the European continent. This is a first step out of their comfort zone.
What enabled them to make that journey of faith into uncharted territory? I think it was the promise of Jesus that we heard in our Gospel reading. Jesus said to his followers –
Peace I leave with you; my peace I leave with you…Do not let your heart be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
That is the peace, not from knowing that God is on your side, but rather, the peace that comes from knowing that you are on God’s side. With the Peace of God, Paul and Silas accepted the invitation to cross the sea to Greece. They were guided to the Roman city of Philippi, a city that was home to hundreds of retired Roman soldiers. There was no synagogue in that city; there were no ten Jewish men there to establish a proper synagogue. So where were Paul and Silas to go for prayer on the Sabbath? They walked outside the city to where a group of women and their families gathered. Paul and Silas joined them for conversation and shared with them the Good News of the Risen Jesus.
Among the gathered group was a woman of great wealth, a successful woman of business who moved in the highest social circles of Philippi, Lydia. She was a merchant of purple cloth, the most expensive cloth to produce using dye from a particular shellfish. The emperor, his entourage, and his governors bought her fabric. Lydia was successful by all standards, yet her heart was unfulfilled. She listened to Paul and Silas; her heart was stirred; she entered the river water with her children and was baptized.
An important takeaway from this story of Lydia is that we must not assume that because someone is successful in business that their heart is filled with meaning and with joy. Lydia was successful, yet not heart-filled until she heard the Good News of the Risen Jesus.
Baptized, Lydia, the first in Europe, she immediately gave thanks by inviting Paul and Silas into her home. And almost as amazingly, Paul and Silas accepted her hospitality. Her home hosted the first community of faith in Europe, and the community grew.
Assurance of the Peace of the Risen Jesus.
Seeing the vision of a new venue to share the love of the Risen Jesus.
Conversation, engaging with total strangers, women.
Developing a community of faith in a strange land.
Next week our reading from the Acts of the Apostles will continue the saga of Paul and Silas in Philippi. It did not all go well. They were beaten and thrown in jail, only to be freed by an astonished jailer. After their release the text states–
They went to Lydia’s house where they met with the brothers and sisters.
Brothers, and sisters, the community of faith grew beyond the women and their families that gathered by the riverside. And Paul would write letters to this community of faith as he continued his journeys.
The Peace of God that surpasses all understanding kept their hearts from trembling.
They engaged strangers in a strange land in conversation about the love of the Risen Jesus.
That conversation developed into baptism.
Baptism developed into extended hospitality.
Hospitality developed the community of faith.
These were the ingredients that grew that first community of faith in Philippi.
These still are the ingredients that grow the community of faith here in Selinsgrove.
Be of Good Cheer! Live without trembling hearts.
Engage in conversation, and share the Good News of the Risen Jesus.