One of them, a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God, listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying.
After she and her household had been baptized, she offered us an invitation, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my home,” and she prevailed on us.
Lydia is an interesting figure in Acts. She was a ‘woman of God’, and she ‘listened’ when Paul spoke. She heard and understood, and within her heart the flame of knowledge quickened. She invited the missionaries to stay with her, opening her home to them.
She was the first European convert in Paul’s 2nd missionary journey, and was a dealer in purple cloth. Her work required considerable capital, as purple dyes were quite expensive and purple cloth was used for such things as the stripes in Roman Senator’s robes. So Lydia was faithful and emminently successul in working through the ways of the world. In other words, like many early Christians she was wealthy. And the European Church more than likely first convened in her living room.
One often considers that success in the world precludes true faithfulness or growth in holiness. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. To put it humorously: It’s good to give God credit, but He needs cash too.
Remaining faithful amidst life’s trials is rarely as trying as remaining faithful during times of great success, when our minds and lives are wont to wander and we consider that perhaps we don’t need God since after all we’re succesful. Lydia is one of the many holy woman of the Bible who demonstrates great faith amidst a life of wealth and success.
My current read is Jeremiah: A New Translation With Introduction and Commentary; the 1965 version by John Bright.
We keep reading Jeremiah in the Office during Lent, and I found myself in the huge library here at Holy Hill looking for something on Jeremiah, and that’s what I was very lucky to find.
The times he lived in were amazingly horrible. They even bear a certain resemblance to the times we are living in.
Hmmm…. Never good news.
In the introduction Bright talks about the prophets in ancient Israel, and at some point they more or less lost focus and “we must conclude that as a group they became mere professionals, hangers-on at court and shrine, many of them timeservers interested chiefly in their fees (e.g. Mic 111 5, 11), who felt no impulse to criticize the state and the society of which they were a part.”
And Jeremiah was born during the kingship of Manasseh, when religious practices in Jerusalem were sinking to an all time low. ‘…local shrines were restored, pagan practices of all sorts were given free rein, the fertility cult with its ritual of sacred prostitution being tolerated even within the temple itself [mon Dieu!] … together with an enormous interest in the occult arts, which were currently enjoying an unprecedented popularity in Assyria as well. Most sinister of all, the barbarous rite of human sacrifice, an abomination to all true Yahwists, began on occasion to be practiced in Jerusalem, the king himself apparently taking the lead (II Kings xxi 6).
Moral laxity, human sacrifice, religious laxity and confusion, occultism… a recipe for high drama. And then of course Israel gets sacked and Jeremiah’s around for that. Drama, intrigue… I’m hooked.
I am not sure I’ll get through much of it during Holy Week. But what a great opportunity to learn and reflect more upon the prophet Jeremiah.