The Sixth Sunday of Easter (Series C)
“A Woman Named Lydia”
May 25, 2019
Sermon Text: Acts 16:9-15, Revelation 21:9–14, 21–27
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We have before us today a wonderful account of the Gospel message at work… the power of God’s Word (and His Word alone) to bring people to saving faith… faith in their Savior… our Savior… Jesus Christ in Whom alone and by Whose merits alone we have been saved from eternal destruction, made children of God and are now heirs of His eternal kingdom.
In our text, it is a woman named Lydia who is brought to faith in Jesus as her Savior. She is described as being among the sebo,menoi to.n qeo,n – that is the “God fearers” … those who revered God… those who believed that there is but one God… unlike the many false gods worshipped by the majority of people of this region and throughout the then civilized world.
We are told that Lydia “just happens to be” with a group of women who had come together it says right by the side of a river where the Apostle Paul and the others had gone to pray on the Sabbath.
Paul and his followers strike up a conversation with them. Any small talk that took place gave way to what is the most important of talks that anyone can have with others whether the discussion is with family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers or individuals with whom one may have just met.
The topic, of course, is Jesus Christ. The message is the forgiveness and life eternal that are ours in this Jesus, only through this Jesus and what He did for all mankind on the cross at Calvary.
It is a message, a topic and discussion which is considered to be off-limits… to be avoided even though where a person spends eternity hangs in the balance.
The reason it is not discussed ironically… no… actually hypocritically, is that people say they value their relationship too much with this person or that person to bring up the subject… to share the Gospel message… the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Really? That is valuing a relationship? That is showing true love and concern? It is anything but. It is tantamount to watching a person with a terminal illness slowly die while all the while having in one’s possession, your possession, my possession, the medicine that will save them.
Maybe it was curiosity as to who Paul and the others were praying to… what they were saying that led into the all-important discussion there by the river. Paul, no doubt, explained about the one God which Lydia knew and worshiped, but then he takes the time, the effort (which was no effort, but rather pure joy) to fill in the blanks for her and the others, including the Holy Trinity and specifically the Second Person of the Trinity. In other words, He pointed them to Jesus.
Thanks be to God for all faithful servants of our Lord who point people to Jesus. It is the greatest thing a person can do in their lifetime, throughout their lifetime. It is the greatest thing that you and I can do… we, to a person, who are constantly being given wonderful opportunities… put in perfect situations where we can do just that… share the Good News about Jesus… share the love of Jesus.
The account before us this morning was no accidental meeting… it was no mere coincidence that Lydia came into the presence of the faithful there by the river. It is never a coincidence with God involved… with His Holy Spirit at work.
If you look at the chapters and verses just prior to our text, it tells how Paul was guided by the Spirit as to where he should go and not go with the Gospel message. This was all planned… divinely planned… all pre-arranged and perfectly set.
In fact, in our text we see that Paul is led to Macedonia… you heard all of the cities he travels through eventually coming to Philippi, the leading city it says of the district of Macedonia. And it is there, just outside the gates of the city, by the river’s edge, on a particular Sabbath… that Lydia comes into contact with Paul and the others.
But you know, just being in contact with someone … in close proximity to them… is not enough. The sad fact of the matter is, quite a few unbelievers live with or otherwise know Christians. They very well may have been in… physically in… God’s house on numerous occasions. And yet, they do not believe.
In regard to Lydia… yes, she was in the presence of these Christians, but we are specifically told that “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.”
The Lord opened her heart. It is the work of the Lord. It is the Lord working through His Word. It is the Lord working through Paul and all of His servants. It is the Lord working through us!
And so, we make it our fervent prayer that the Lord would constantly open our hearts to pay attention to God’s Word as it is preached, taught and conveyed to us. The Law which brings us to our knees and the verdict that we are guilty as charged… and the Gospel that brings us to our Savior who tells us that we are forgiven… that His precious blood has blotted out all of our sins and iniquities.
Furthermore, we make it our fervent prayer that the Lord would work mightily in us to share the Good News… to share the faith… to share Jesus Christ, Him crucified and risen.
We give thanks for how wonderfully the Lord our God worked in our sister Lydia. We are told that her encounter with Paul led to her being baptized into the Christian faith… and not only her, but her whole household! That is great!
Do you see how the Word spreads… how faith spreads… and how thankful we are for that… how we give God the glory for the amazingly work He is doing still to this very day and in our very midst… in bringing individuals and whole households to faith… in bringing them from the brink of certain destruction and everlasting condemnation to life eternal and all the blessings that are ours in Christ Jesus.
You heard how our text ends… Lydia is no sooner baptized and she is already asking to help… begging for the privilege of playing some small part in the spreading of the Gospel.
And she does this saying “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And it says she “prevailed upon them.”
It is interesting that if you look at the Greek word used here for “prevailed,” it means that she strongly urged them, really persuaded them. She really, really, really wanted Paul and the others to come and stay at her house. She wanted to provide for them and, of course, to hear more that they had to say.
Lydia was so happy now in the Christian faith… in the Christian family and she so wanted to serve, to help out. And Paul and the others stayed with her.
And this is not the last that we will hear of Lydia. Not long afterward, Paul and those with him were put into jail for confessing the faith. You may remember that there was an earthquake which opened all of the jail doors and much to the jailer’s surprise, Paul and the others did not try to escape. They were still in their cells. After this is over, Paul and those with him go and visit Lydia again. And you know full well that she couldn’t have been happier to see them again, greet them again, help them again.
Dearly beloved, what we have here is an amazing account of coming to faith and life in the faith… life in Christ and in the fellowship of believers. It shows the power of God… the power of His Holy Word at work then… and we know it is likewise wonderfully at work now… in the true Christian Church found throughout the world.
Someday soon, we look forward to meeting our sister Lydia in glory who will no doubt persuade us to enjoy the many blessings of God in paradise with her… in our new home, the new Jerusalem who we heard described earlier … its radiance like a most rare jewel, clear as crystal, with gates of pearl and the street of pure gold. Where no temple is found for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.
A woman named Lydia is there and countless others who lived the faith, died in the faith and who live forevermore in heavenly bliss. Make no mistake about it. This is what awaits us and all true believers all because of Jesus Christ… our Savior, Lord and King. Amen.
May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
“A Woman Named Lydia” 5/24/19 The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL