March 21 – 6th Wednesday in Lent
by Pastor Pete Scheele
Read Acts 16:6 – 10
Grace and peace to you as you let God’s will be done in your life, from God, our Father, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Oh, I hope that you don’t mine if I sit here while I talk with you tonight. My old legs have had a lot of miles put on them through the years and I prefer sitting instead of standing lately. I go by the name of Silas, though my birth name is Silvanus. I’m not here to talk about me, but about God’s will being done in the lives of people just like you and me, but especially I want to tell you about the most incredible women I have ever met, Lydia and how God’s will was done in her life. What a privilege it is to know and be the husband of such a God fearing woman as Lydia. What a privilege it is to be able to share how God’s will was being done in Lydia’s life and can be done in your life too. To be able to explain this I need to go back to how I first meet Lydia.
As a youth I became a slave to a very good master. How let me explain that I became a slave to my master because my father was very indebted to my master and he could not pay my master back, so instead of taking my father to be a slave to pay off the debt, which would destroy the livelihood of our family I told my parents that I would become the slave to pay the debt. My master was a good man and I served him in many ways. He taught me his business and I traveled with him. It was on one of our trips to Jerusalem that my master and I came in contact with the Disciple of Jesus, whom you know a lot about. You also know that Jesus came down from His heavenly family to pay the debts that each of us owed and not the debt of His Father owed, like me. As you know Jesus paid that debt by His life and death, then He rose to live again after three days in the grave. All our debts are forgiven because of what Jesus Christ did for us. My master and I became believers in Jesus after getting to know more about Jesus and the response of my master to his new found faith in Jesus Christ was to forgive all the debts that my father owed him and set me free. My response was to stay with the disciple of Jesus to be a servant to them as best that I could and learn from them about Jesus, so that I could share the Good News of Jesus with others.
That bring me to the Jerusalem council, where the Disciple Paul and Barnabas came down to Jerusalem to discuss the controversy of whether or not you had to become Jewish before you could become a Christian. Now I am Greek by nationality, but my master was a Jewish man of God and as I worked for him I was circumcised as a Jewish man of God also. There were more and more people, who were Greek or Roman becoming Christian without becoming Jewish first and that become a heated controversy. At the end of the Jerusalem council they declared that you do not have to become Jewish first to become a Christian. The council decided to send Judas and me with the disciples Paul and Barnabas back to the people of Antioch to share this good news. In Antioch, the Disciple Paul asked me to go with him on his second missionary journey to the people of Turkey. Off we when, first traveling to the cities that the Disciple Paul had visited on his first missionary trip and then we headed north all the way up to the Marmara Sea, for the Disciple Paul felt that God was calling him to preach the good news of Jesus Christ to the people of Thyatira. We were not able to get across the rivers running into the Sea of Marmara or across the sea itself, so we end up in Troas. There were four of us now, with Luke and Timothy joining us at Iconium. At Troas the Disciple Paul had a dream of a man from Macedonian calling for him to come and tell them of the Good News of Jesus Christ, so we bought tickets and sailed to Philippi. It was there just outside the gates of Philippi on the riverbank that we first meet Lydia. Lydia was a member of a group of Jewish people of Philippi who came to gather each Sabbath to read God’s Word and talk about God’s love for them. There were only a few men in this group and mostly women so they meet next to the river because the city council would only allow men to build sanctuaries to their gods in the city. Lydia stood out as different from the rest of them because she was a woman from Thyatira and not Jewish, plus she sold purple goods which gave her wealth.
Later as we got to know Lydia better we learned that she was born a slave in Thyatira and was taught at a young age to work with the purple dyes of the land. Claudius (her first husband) was a buyer and seller of purple goods and bought Lydia as a slave to work for him. Lydia spoke Lydian, the language of the region of Thyatira and not knowing or understanding her name he simply called her Lydia, after the language she spoke. Lydia learned the Greek and Hebrew language of Claudius and he set her free to be his partner in the business. Later Claudius married Lydia as they continued in the purple trade in Philippi becoming wealth merchants bringing the purple goods and dyes of Thyatira to sell. Lydia became a part of the Jewish group, because Claudius was a Jewish man of God and he taught her about God’s love for His people. After they had started their family Claudius became very ill and despite all that Lydia and many of the other Jewish women did for Claudius, he died, leaving Lydia the owner of a very wealthy purple dye company and a widow with a family to take care of.
On that Sabbath day when we came to join the women along the river side, just outside the gates of Philippi, we sat down and introduced ourselves and then the Disciple Paul asked each of the women to introduce themselves. When Lydia introduced herself, she said that she was Lydia of Thyatira, at which the Disciple Paul smiled and gave out a little laugh. Lydia looked a little annoyed at the disciple Paul for his laugh, but she listened intently to all that the disciple Paul had to say to them. He quoted from the Word of God and told them about how God’s love had sent Jesus Christ, His Only Son, to accomplish all that God had promised to do for all mankind ad to give us salvation. After lunch the women asked the Disciple Paul and each of us many questions about Jesus Christ. The Disciple Paul told them about baptism and how the blood of Jesus Christ washes away all their sins, just like the water of the river washed all the dirt off of you, only in baptism the Holy Spirit gives you a new life in your faith in Jesus Christ. Several of the women asked to be baptized. Lydia had herself and all her family baptized. When the group was breaking up to go home she asked us to say with her and her family. She said to us, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” With much persistence she got her way and we stay with her for the whole time that we were in Philippi.
As we worked in Philippi those weeks and stayed with Lydia and her family we all could see God’s will being done in her live. What an incredible woman she was, as she managed and handled her children and household with love along with the business of purchasing, making and selling purple goods. Her business and her household ran smoothly with her loving, yet firm hands and actions. Almost every night after getting all her children to bed she would come out into the living area of the house, where we were sitting around talking about the day’s events. She would sit with us listening, ask questions and offer solutions to problems we were having. Though we didn’t completely understand it at the time, later as we continued in our mission trip with the Disciple Paul, we would talk about how she showed the love of God to her family and to everyone she met. Being a women, an especially a slave women at one time, made it hard on her as people put her down, even though she was running a honest and profitable business along with raising a family.
You might remember that the Disciple Paul and I were arrested one day when we were telling the people in the market place about Jesus Christ and the Disciple Paul healed a woman with a demon. We were flogged and put into prison and as we sat there in prison we began to singing praises to God and that night an earthquake shook the prison so bad that all our chains fell off. No one escaped, even though we could have, and the prison Jailer came in and asked how this happened, knowing that some god must have been involved. The Disciple Paul told him about the great work of Jesus Christ and he and his whole family became believers and were baptized that night. The city council apologized for mistreating us but insisted that we leave Philippi. We left after stopping by Lydia’s house to give our farewells to all the faithful Christian we had come to know. We traveled to Thessalonica and Berea sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ in each of these cities and the Holy Spirit brought many to the faith. As we left Berea the Disciple Paul sent Timothy and me back to Philippi to see how everything was going for the believers there. You can probably guess that we spend the whole time there in Philippi at Lydia’s house and the believers were now meeting each Sunday in her house to sing praises to God and share God’s word led by the Jailor who had come to faith that night. It’s amazing to see how God’s will is being done in the lives of people, sometimes people you wouldn’t even expect.
Well Timothy and I met back up with the Disciple Paul and Luke in Corinth and spend another years there before going to Ephesus and then worked our way back to Antioch. After a while in Antioch the Disciple Paul decided to go spend some time in Ephesus and do mission work in that area. Timothy, Luke and I traveled with him and spend three years in Ephesus teaching and reaching out to the people in the areas around there. Just before a riot broke out in Ephesus, the Disciple Paul sent Timothy and me to visit all the churches that we had visited on his previous missionary journey to ask for a collect to be made for the church in Jerusalem. Timothy and I got to spend some time with Lydia and her family again. God’s love was being shown by her actions and words as she continued to raise her family and work at her business of making and selling purple goods.
At the end of the Disciple Paul’s third missionary trip we went to Jerusalem and some of the Jewish people in Jerusalem tried to kill the Disciple Paul. The Disciple Paul was but in jail in Caesarea for three years and during that time the Disciple Paul sent Timothy and me to check on all the cities that we had visited on our missionary journeys. In Ephesus the believers asked Timothy to stay and be the leader of the work going on there. I moved on and sailed over to Corinth, then I headed north to Athens, Berea, Thessalonica and then to Philippi. I was back with the most amazing woman that I had ever known in my life, Lydia. By this time some of her children were grown up and were working, running, making and selling the purple goods with her. I spent some time there building up the community of believers and after a while I asked her to marry me. We were married and about that time the Disciple Paul got his chance to go to Rome. I got to help Lydia, do the work that the Disciple Paul wanted to do on that second missionary journey. Lydia had been sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with the people of Thyatira each time she traveled up there to do business. Isn’t it amazing how God’s will is being done in the lives of people just like Lydia, you and me as we share the Good News of God’s love with the world? Thanks be to God for His will being done in our lives and our response to it. Amen.
Let’s sing hymn #686 as a hymn of praise to God for His will to be done in our lives.