Reflection on the Lectionary

Sunday 22nd May (Easter 6 & Aldersgate Sunday)
Psalm 67 | Acts 16 : 9 – 15 | Revelation 21 : 10, 22 – 22 :5 | John 14 : 23 – 29
This reflection is provided by Local Preacher Howard Wilson (Horfield).

Acts 16:9-15

Acts 16:9-15

  1. During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’
  2. When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.
    The Conversion of Lydia
  3. We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis,
  4. and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days.
  5. On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there.
  6. A certain woman named Lydia, a worshipper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul.
  7. When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.’ And she prevailed upon us.

I love passages like this!

Paul has a vision, ‘God wants me to go to Macedonia’, and then just ups and goes. Imagine this today – “God wants you to go to Spain” and we’d immediately think of a hundred reasons why it’s not convenient just yet, maybe in six months… we’d have to check our passport was in date (or maybe even apply for a passport)… we’d need to get online and search for a suitable flight… of course, before then, we might need a few dozen church meetings to agree whether or not this was actually a vision, whether God might prefer that we do some more work on the church roof before we think about spending on people we’ve never met… and so on.

But Paul just ups and goes. In fairness, we might say that Paul has the advantage of having reasonably recently had a direct meeting with God, so maybe he was a bit more attuned to listening to God. It’s great that not only does Paul decide he must go to Macedonia, but he also convinces his ‘team’ to go with him – including Luke who is writing this book.

So, they have what sounds like a challenging journey – it we didn’t fly we’d at least be able to use a decent ferry and then drive in a matter of a few hours. Paul and company were stuck on a sailing ship, then a long walk. Probably another reason we would not be so quick to agree to go. When they finally get there they end up chatting with a group of women – on a Sabbath as well! It’s amazing how far the ‘ultra legalistic Pharisee’ Paul has come since his encounter with Jesus. Not only is he travelling on demand, but he’s breaking Jewish rules about mixing with women on the Sabbath.

Then he ends up talking to Lydia – she would have been a very wealthy woman, dealing in purple cloth in those days would be more impressive than someone who deals in hand spun silk today. Purple dyes were incredibly expensive, so to be able to afford to deal in such cloth would require substantial resources.

This woman is then convinced by Paul and his team, chooses to follow Jesus and along with her household, is baptised there and then (no six weeks of membership classes or need to check out who she was). Seems a lot of effort to go to for one person (and their household).

But that’s the beauty of the God that we follow – willing to put all out for one person. This was the realisation that Wesley came to when he attended a church in Aldersgate Street and felt his heart ‘strangely warmed’ as he realised the God cares for him – ‘even me’. May we all, at the very least, accept that God loves and cares for us, and may just have a role for us in the mission of the Church.

Loving Lord,
help us to listen for your prompting.
Make us willing to respond to your call,
and give us the courage to act upon it. Amen.