Saturday, May 12, 2007
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"!