It appears that Lydia was an immigrant and former slave. To begin with, she shared her name with a region of Asia Minor known for her occupation: the production of purple fabric. Whether named for her homeland or known as a woman of Lydia, it seems Philippi was not Lydia’s home. Second, animal urine was used in the dyeing of purple cloth to give the color greater shine and endurance. Therefore, it was seen as dirty work limited to slaves and former slaves. The Hellenistic world would have looked down on Lydia for her occupation, citizenship status, and gender. Additionally, her religion as a proselyte to the monotheistic Jewish faith would have served as a negative marker in the religiously pluralistic world of the Roman Empire.
Yet despite the social realities of Lydia’s world, God chooses her and opens her heart to begin the congregation at Philippi. The status markers of society do not matter. She is freed to be her truest self: the beloved of God.
Once baptized, Lydia demonstrates her faith immediately by putting the gospel into action and offering shelter to Paul and companions, who were facing the hostility directed toward Jews in Roman colonies like Philippi. Lydia offers Paul and the group protection in her house and bases her argument for them to stay on the maxim of being true to Christ.
Lydia teaches us, therefore, that our God is the God who liberates—giving the freedom of true life to those restricted by the principalities and powers of the world. And accepting this freedom translates into acting in solidarity with others. Just as we read in John 14 and Psalm 67, love and action come together. God blesses us with a freedom that we cannot keep to ourselves.
Liberating God, help us to embrace your blessing of freedom. May we be transformed by this gift and empowered to act in solidarity with 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?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.