Weekly Bible Reflection
Luke: Signs of the Kingdom
Sixth Sunday of Easter
Text: Acts 16.9-15 " Finding Jesus in Harrods & in the laundrette"
Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
If there wasn’t a church building in your locality, where might you go to worship God on a Sunday - a hilltop, by the river, in a home, a workplace … ?
A Window on the Text
There are some remarkable and contrasting events in this brief story.
Paul finds his plans thwarted in Asia to which he attributes the hand of God. So he takes the big step of crossing the Bosphorus and begins the task of bringing the Gospel to Europe. He is led to the Roman town of Philippi which lay on the Egnatian Way, the main Roman Road to the East.
He seeks out other Jews with whom to worship on the Sabbath and finds a group of women gathered by the river. There is no mention of male worshippers, just women, so this cannot have been a normal synagogue congregation (which had to contain 10 men). Perhaps the women gathered to worship in the same place where they gathered on other days to do the washing.
Here he meets Lydia a seller of purple cloth. She too had moved her home from the province of Lydia in Turkey, to Philippi. The ‘purple cloth’ was, in all probability, Chinese silk, brought all the way from China by camel trains along the Silk Road as far as Tyre on the Mediterranean coast in Lebanon. Here it was dyed using a precious purple pigment made from murex shells (12,000 shells made 1.5 grams of dye). The result was a very expensive cloth fit for an emperor’s toga. In today’s terms, we might think of Lydia selling her cloth in Harrods.
Lydia is a remarkable woman. She runs her own business, trading with the upper echelons of Roman society and she has made herself wealthy. But she is also a worshipper of God and she accepts Paul’s teaching and is baptised, along with all her household.
There is an interesting twist at the end (v15) when, instead of Paul demanding a statement of belief from Lydia at her baptism, she requires one from him: “If you agree that I am faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home”. She, the Gentile Christian expects the Jewish Christian to make an uncomfortable move onto her ‘unclean’ territory. The same happened to Peter after he baptised the Roman soldier, Cornelius (Acts 10.48).
Responding as a community
- Paul and Lydia make successes of their respective enterprises by moving to a busy hub of society. Where would you have to go in your community to engage with non-Christians?
- The church seems to expect new converts to join its church-based life. What might be the effect of the church going out to be with its new converts in their places, following the examples of Lydia with Paul and Cornelius with Peter?
- Name the ‘spirit-filled worshippers of God’ in your community (the non-church ones). List the contributions they make to local society. Light a candle for each one and offer a blessing for them.
- Pray for yourselves; name the concerns and fears you would have at the thought of ‘going to stay with’ and engaging with those ‘worshippers of God’ in their own places and activities.
- Pray for a new understanding of evangelism and for the courage to engage in a new way.
- For more background on purple dye go to Purple Passion at: http://www.jolique.com/dyes_colorants/purple_passion.htm