30 May 2011Acts 16:11-15
"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." (v. 13)
The so-called 'missionary journeys' of Paul and his colleagues
in the Acts of the Apostles are exciting travel adventures. There
are sea crossings and a shipwreck, new places to visit and dangers
to face. Not too long ago, schoolchildren would have spent their R
E lessons using different coloured crayons to plot the various
routes of Paul's travels around the Mediterranean.
This may have been an interesting insight into the challenges of first-century travel, but the key issue in these journeys is not geography, but gospel (good news). Today's reading starts with some travel details, but its focus is on the meeting with Lydia.
There are a number of interesting points about this encounter:
- When visiting a new city, Paul would often meet with those at the synagogue. This is not mentioned specifically here and it may be that there was no regular synagogue at Philippi at that time.
- Paul instead goes to the river to meet with the women who had gathered there for prayer - including Lydia, who is described as a "worshipper of God" (v. 14) - a phrase which indicates that she was a Gentile (non Jew) who had associated herself with the Jewish faith.
- Luke notes that Paul "sat down and spoke to the women" (v. 13). Presumably this means that he entered into dialogue and conversation rather than preached to them in a more formal context.
- Through this conversation "the Lord opened her heart" (v. 14) and Lydia's life was transformed.
Today, if we are looking to 'commend Christ' to others -
the theme of this week's readings - this is a good model to follow.
It involves finding the best context to meet with others, entering
into dialogue and being open to the working of God in our
How might you find a helpful context to speak about Christ today?
What would need to change in order that you might more regularly find time to 'sit down' with those you meet so that time is given to such important conversations?