St Paul's UMC
Sunday, July 17, 2022
  • To God Be The Glory
  • Pass It On
  • Doxology
      • 1 Peter 4:8–11NIV2011

      • Acts 16:11–15NIV2011

  • How much of an impact can one person have by just showing love to other people? And when I say other people, I not talking about family or close friends – although loving them is powerful also.
    To intentionally invest your time, your focus, your gifts, your resources on making sure that a stranger feels welcome, desiring to know them, listening to their story, and acknowledging their worth? And in building that new relationship - sharing with them the greatest gift of all – Jesus Christ.
    The answer, of course, is that each of us has the ability to greatly impact someone else’s life. It is how the Kingdom of God is spread here on earth.
    there is a couple I know, friends of ours, who practice a radical form of hospitality. They are the first to offer up their home for any kind of gathering, they love hosting meals and bringing together both old friends and people they just met, but the radical part to me was witnessing them open their home up to a family on the verge of homelessness. It was a messy situation, there were kids involved, the couple in need didn’t make the best decisions, but they were trying to get it right, and they were learning to trust in the Lord. So our friends, without much hesitation, said, “we are leaving for a family summer vacation - here are the keys to our house - live here until you can find someplace of your own.”
    that is a huge risk. I know it was one that we would have been unwilling to take at the time. yet at the heart of this decision, I clearly see Jesus. All this stuff that we accumulate in life does not last, it is temporary, but here was a genuine need and they had the means to do make a difference, especially for the children, and in doing so, they stored up treasure for themselves where it matters - in God’s Kingdom.
    The Christian path of discipleship is really not that hard if you think about it. You love God and you love people. You take time to learn what Jesus taught, and you practice it in your life. You see other people not as sinners, or enemies, or beyond hope, but as the people whom Jesus gave his life to save. Everyone has infinite worth in God’s eyes. Some just don’t know it yet. That is where we come in as the body of Christ.
    When we love strangers because of our love for Jesus – great things occur.
    Just look at Lydia. A woman whose faith compelled her to open up her home and her life – that others may know Jesus.
    This biblical account is set at the beginning of the Apostle Paul’s second missionary journey – and his first time entering into Europe. In a vision one night, he saw a man from Macedonia, and area north of Greece, standing before him and pleading with him “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” He woke from his vision and concluded that God wanted him to go there and share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
    So Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke set out for the Roman colony of Macedonia.
    Now it was Paul’s custom when entering a town to go first the local synagogue (a building used for Jewish community worship and instruction), where he would worship among his fellow Jews, and begin to teach about Jesus. If he found a receptive crowd, he would stay awhile. If not, which was more often the case, he would dust off his feet and go hang out with the Gentiles (non-Jews) and teach them.
    As the travelling foursome entered Philippi, there was no synagogue to be found. This tells us a little about the demographics of that city. When there were 10 or more male Jews in a city or town, by Jewish law it was their duty to organize a synagogue. If there were not enough males, then the local Jews would find and designate a place of prayer outside of the city – where they would be undisturbed, usually by a river or stream if possible, to gather as a community and worship. It is here that they would follow the Jewish pattern of prayer that includes the Shema (a declaration of the who God is) which begins:
    “Listen, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your might.”
    , this is followed by praise, petitions and then thanksgivings. If there happened to be a Jewish teacher passing through the area, he would be invited to speak and share a teaching.
    This is exactly what we find in this account. Paul and his travelling party go outside town, toward the river, to find the local Jews worshipping. They find a gathering a women, we do not know how many, but we do know that among the group was a “God-fearer” named Lydia. A “God-fearer” is a gentile who believes in the God of Israel and worships with the Jewish community.
    Paul begins to share with them that the Messiah, the One whom all Jews were waiting for, had indeed come, just as the prophets in the Hebrew Bible had described, and His name was Jesus. He healed the sick, fed the poor, and cast out demons. He was rejected by his own people, arrested, crucified, died. But death could not hold him and He rose from the grave. He ascended and now sits in the seat of authority next to His Father in Heaven.
    His blood was the perfect sacrifice that covered the sins of all people, Jews and Gentiles alike, once and for all. All one has to do is to repent of their sin and believe and their sins would be forgiven. God’s radical hospitality is open to all people.
    As Lydia listened to Paul, God opened up her heart to receive the truth and to believe. She, and her whole household - which would have included children, servants, relatives living with her, were immediately baptized.
    Her life was forever changed.
    Now Luke provides us very few details about who Lydia was – beyond being the first recorded European disciple. We know she was from Thyatira, a city located in modern day western Turkey. In Paul’s day, it was the territory was known as Asia, and 600 years before Paul, that same area was called the Kingdom of Lydia – which is where she most likely got her name. Lydians were known for their skill as archers and for producing a rare purple dye – extracted from the root of a particular plant, which was used to color garments, carpets, banners and royal robes. In the days before chemical dyes, purple was a rare color to find. Lydia was likely a widow and it is highly probable that she was a member of the dye trade guild. Philippi was located along a major trade route, so she picked a great location to apply her trade and was a prosperous woman.
    So we have this successful woman who feared God and worshipped him with the local Jewish community.
    As we examine models of discipleship in this sermon series, I think there are several qualities about Lydia we could highlight.
    · She feared God
    · She was industrious
    · She was generous
    · She practiced hospitality
    · Above all, she was faithful
    Characteristics that each of us, as Christ followers, should work to cultivate in our own lives.
    As I described earlier, the Kingdom of God expands by faithful disciples living out the Christian ethos and being generous and hospitable. People devoted to building up a community of believers by simply loving people and welcoming them into their lives.
    Lydia insisted on hosting Paul, Luke, Silas and Timothy in her home, and opened her home to serve as a house church. As we move on to the 16th chapter of Acts, we find Paul and Silas getting into a bit of trouble in Philippi – as they were prone to do – resulting in both of them being thrown in jail. It wasn’t all bad, they ended up converting the jailer and his family into Jesus’ followers. But it was clear they had worn out their welcome in this town and it was time to leave and continue on their missionary journey.
    Acts 16:40 ESV
    So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.
    They went to Lydia’s house – because it was where this early house church gathered. Paul and his companions left behind a small group of Christians who would become the founders of the Church in Philippi.
    Years later, when Paul writes his letter to the Philippians, he does so with gratitude as he remembers their hospitality and generosity, Philippians 4:15
    Philippians 4:15 ESV
    And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only.
    As one of my commentaries noted: No church shared with him and supported him … except the Philippians. They were the generous ones. The hospitable ones. The faithful ones. And it all started with Lydia. A faithful woman who shared everything she had so others would come to know the Lord who set her free.
    If we could go forward in time – say 20 years – that would be the year 2044 – and speak to the Christian community here in Cambridge, wouldn’t it be interesting to find out how they remembered us? What would they say?
    Would there be folks who would tell stories of coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ because of you. Because you invited them into your homes, befriended them, welcomed them into your lives and loved them right where they were – warts and all?
    Would they speak of ministries that transformed their lives – ministries you helped launch through your generosity and your time?
    How about beyond Cambridge? Would there be people throughout the world who could attribute their relationship to Jesus Christ to the efforts of a loving church located in Dorchester county?
    That is the impact we can have on the future church right now. Following the example of Lydia, being generous with our time and our resources, practicing hospitality to strangers, loving people and faithfully serving our Lord. Planting the seeds that will yield a great harvest one day.
    I believe God is calling each of you to be a Lydia. Let’s welcome the stranger, hear their stories, be their friend. And share with them the Good News of a Savior who welcomes all into restored relationship with God. That is how we transform the world. Amen.
      • Acts 16:40NIV2011

      • Philippians 4:15NIV2011

  • Blessed Be Your Name
      • 2 Thessalonians 2:16–17NIV2011

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