Saturday, May 12, 2007

St. Lydia

Tomorrow I will be preaching on the appointed first reading for Easter 6, which is from Acts 16, the account of Lydia's conversion in Philippi. Given the fact that it is also Mother's Day a sermon involving Lydia seemed appropriate, although I try to avoid giving in to the "Hallmark Holidays."

While studying and investigating Lydia's background I was surprised to find that she was not generally included in the books of saints. An Internet source indicated that her feast day is August 3, but even among the minor saints I counld't locate it in my books. The LCMS, to its credit, now includes a list of saints' commemorations in the new Lutheran Service Book, and along with Phoebe and Dorcas, Lydia has a commemoration date of October 25.

It is not surprising that she would be overlooked, since her name appears in Holy Scripture only in Acts 16. However, it can be shown that she was a successful and well-to-do businesswoman in Philippi in her day, and was probably one of the founders of the first church in Philippi. Her home was undoubtedly its first church.

She listened to Paul attentively along side the river where they gathered that Sabbath day, and through the Word her heart was opened and she believed. Without hesitation she allowed herself to be baptized, and not only her, but her "entire household." Although a husband is not mentioned, and some believe she was a widow, I have no problem with the word "household" including children of any age. It may also have included servants too.

So this successful merchant of purple goods became the patron, it would seem, for the new mission in Philippi, and according to scholars she was the first convert in Europe. What a model for any woman today! Christ was first in all things. Living in an area that was probably more pagan than Jewish, she was already a kind of outsider, being a "worshiper of God." And now as a Christian she may have been even more so. Yet that never deterred her and she labored hard on behalf of that new church that would be one of Paul's favorite missions.

May the mothers among us follow her example in their homes. May all women find in her an icon of devotion and faithfulness and courage. And may we all look to her with gratitude for her willing stewardship in this valuable mission work of the Early Church.

Although her day, whenever it should be, is obviously not today, I nevertheless wish all a "Blessed St. Lydia's Day"!


Anonymous said...

Dear Pastor Don,
This was a great blog on St. Lydia.
We Catholics would add, "St. Lydia, pray for us!"
By the way, check out Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Detroit, MI. I realize that it is ELCA, but note that they have a shrine to the Mother of God with votive candles. I think that, perhaps, Luther would not have a problem with that. You would know better than I. I continue to learn a lot from your blog and have great respect for your sincere Lutheran faith and love for the Lord Jesus. Let us pray for one another to the Lord our God.
In Christ Our Saviour,
Fr. Martin Gerber
Mary, Queen of the Universe Shrine
Orlando, Fl
(I realize that the name of the church I serve in will be a bit much for a Lutheran to deal with, but we emphasize the daily Eucharist and offer the opportunity for Confession 7 hours a day, Monday-Friday and 4 hours on Sunday afternoon. We serve the Orlando area and thousands of visitors to the Disney Parks around us.)

D. Engebretson said...

Dear Fr. Gerber,
Thank you again for your kind comments!

Zion in Detroit is actually an LCMS church in our "English District." Her former pastor, Fr. John Fenton, recently left the Lutheran ministerium for the Orthodox Church. Zion and her pastors have historically been very liturgical and very good at retaining the best of the catholic heritage. I'm not too surprised by the shrine to Mary. I would be curious, considering Fr. Fenton's struggle with the Lutheran faith over the last several years, to know how that shrine was used. Zion was not typical of LCMS parishes.

Re: daily Eucharist and daily confession, many Lutherans have been working to restore this aspect of our piety for many years. Pr. Loehe of Neuesdeterslau Germany in the 19c was known to have labored for 10 years trying just to restore the full Divine Service after Rationalism decimated it. I know that he worked hard (probably just as long) to restore the genuine Lutheran practice of regular private confession and absolution. We keep hoping that one day we'll get there too, but Loehe reminds us to remain patient!

Thank you again for your comments. I find it stimulating to dialogue between our faiths and continue to learn.

In Christ,
Pr. Engebretson