We jump into the Acts narrative shortly after the Council of Jerusalem where, guided by the Holy Spirit, the early church agrees to include Gentiles in its community of Jewish Christians without requiring them to keep Jewish law. As a result of this decision, Paul and Silas set out to strengthen established churches by sharing this radical decision.
Throughout this journey, readers see the mysterious interplay between the Holy Spirit and human initiative. For instance, right before today’s reading, Paul and company are “forbidden” by the Holy Spirit to reach their desired destination of Asia (see Acts 16:6). Then a vision tells Paul to go to Macedonia. Paul’s company responds by crossing the Aegean Sea and making the strategic decision to walk nine miles inland to Philippi, an important city situated along the Via Egnatia thoroughfare.
Once there, Paul and his group of missionaries make another strategic decision to seek out Jewish practitioners on the Sabbath, which leads them to a group of women worshiping by the river outside of town. Paul speaks to Lydia, and Lydia decides to go to worship and listen to Paul. But it is ultimately the Holy Spirit who opens Lydia’s heart and inspires her to accept the gospel.
The question of why the Holy Spirit opens some hearts but not others is not answered. What we do learn is that we exist in a mysterious interplay of divine intervention and human decision, the spiritual and the material, call and response, strategy and trust. While we have a role to play, we learn that it is ultimately the Holy Spirit—who is surely in us all before we ever know it—who prompts, stirs, calls, and blesses us.
Holy Spirit, help us to be like Lydia today and pay attention to the ways we are prompted, called, and blessed. Through this blessing, may we bless others. Amen.
As we near the end of our Easter celebration, we begin to wonder: What do we do when the party is over? God meets us in this place of uncertainty by offering transformative blessings through this week’s readings—a word that grounds us in our God-given identity while calling us to a greater purpose in the world. This divine mystery asks us to hold in tension the grace of God, who gives us gifts we do not earn, and the call of God toward action. Psalm 67 bestows on us the blessing and call of God’s radiance. John reminds us of the blessing of peace and the call of integrity. The conversion of Lydia in Acts invites us to create space for mysterious interplay between the divine and human action. Revelation reminds us of the blessing of life and reconciliation. Holding all these things is made possible through the Holy Spirit, who plays a prominent role in many of the readings this week.
Read Psalm 67. How do I radiate the blessing of God? How do I share this light and experience the brilliance of others?
Read John 14:23-29. Think of a time when you were able to hold peace and pain together. How did you recognize the Spirit’s presence with you?
Read Acts 16:9-15. What does it mean to you to be sent by the Holy Spirit?
Read Revelation 22:1-5. How do you experience the blessing of living water? Who do you believe is beyond saving? How do you think of them in light of the blessing of reconciliation promised in Revelation 21 and 22?
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