Lydia was my Mom’s second name. She didn’t love it. Not for the name, it’s beautiful enough. It was her aunt’s name, an aunt and uncle that she often helped around their home, but that she didn’t always feel treated her fairly. When we would ask, she would say, “I don’t like that name.” And offer this simple explanation. My nephew seemed to have missed this story. When their second daughter was born, he went excitedly to see his Grandma to share the good news of new birth. And to happily tell my Mom that they had named their infant daughter after her. “We named her Lydia, after you,” he said. My Mom, ever straightforward, said, “I don’t like that name.” It was my aunt’s name. I used to help at their house, but they didn’t always treat me fairly.” My nephew was a little taken back, but knew and loved his Grandma, and her directness, and just showed her pictures of his newborn daughter that she was delighted to see. Soon after when I visited my Mom I noticed a picture of her holding tiny Lydia with my nephew, his arms around them and my Mom with a big great grandmother smile. I looked at the picture with my Mom and asked, “So this is Lydia?” She nodded, and said, “I didn’t like that name. It was my aunt’s name.” And then she paused and said, “But now it’s my great granddaughter’s name, after me.” And she smiled.
Why do we have Lydia’s story in the Bible, and hear it this Sunday? It is brief, only a few lines about her being among the women in prayer outside the gate by the river, where Paul and others meet them on the Sabbath. Lydia, we learn, a worshipper of God, is from Thyatira, and a dealer in purple cloth. And “God opened her heart to listen eagerly to what Paul was saying.” And then we hear that she and her household are Baptized! And she urges Paul and the others, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to God, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon them, we hear. She insisted, might be another word. And that is all we know of her story.
Some claim Lydia as the first European convert. The first example of the Holy Spirit’s vision to Paul to go to Macedonia, realized in the widening expanse of the good news of Jesus being shared for all to hear and receive. Some connect Lydia to the beginning of the Church of Philippi, to whom Paul writes in the letter to the Philippians with great love and fondness. Some speculate that as a dealer in expensive purple cloth Lydia was a woman of wealth, and a woman in charge of her household, possibly a widow or independent woman, inviting Paul and the others to stay with her as she pleases and providing for them and possibly for a new community of Jesus’ followers. These are all possibilities; and possible reasons that Lydia is honoured by having her name and brief story included in the Book of Acts.
What we do know is Lydia is an important example, of a woman whose heart is opened, and life changed through hearing the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and through Baptism for herself and her household, filled with God’s Holy Spirit, faithfully responding to God, opening her life and home to people and providing for them. Lydia is a faithful disciple of Jesus, by Jesus’/God’s abiding with her and her household, and all who come to be with them, to be with God. Oh, that we should all be her namesake!
Lydia is a wonderful example of Jesus’ words in the Gospel for today. Once again, as we revisit Jesus’ words in the light and new life of the resurrection, they hold new meaning and understanding. Those who love Jesus, keep Jesus’ words, and are loved by God, and Jesus/God makes their home with them; with Lydia and her household; with us. Jesus said this while he was still with his followers but promised as he returned to God from this in-the-flesh life through death and resurrection, God would send an Advocate, the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name, to teach and remind us of all that Jesus said. That Holy Spirit calls Paul in a vision to go further, to far off places to share Jesus’ words with women gathered in a place of prayer by the river at the gate to the city of Philippi. That Holy Spirit opens Lydia’s heart to eagerly hear the words from Jesus, to be baptized with all her household, and to open her home in the Spirit of new life in God/Jesus for people to dwell together in unity, love, peace.
In this Holy dance of the Trinity expressed in Jesus’ words of love and unity and living with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, leaving and coming to, hearing then, that we might believe now, in all this Jesus leaves us with, Jesus gives, peace. Not as the world gives, fleeting, false security masked as peace, but lasting, loving peace. So, do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. Let them be opened by God’s Spirit, like Lydia, welcoming Jesus’ words of promise, welcoming Baptism, welcoming God’s people, home, in God’s peace. Oh, that we should all be her namesake.
Today we celebrate the Holy Baptism of Brynn, dear child of the household of her parents, who with sponsors, family, friends and this community of the cross of Christ bring her to these waters of new life today. Waters that hold the promise, for Lydia and her household before, of Jesus’ love and unity in the home of God with us and all people and all creation in God’s/Jesus’ Holy Spirit. This now and daily new life for Brynn and for all of us in water and words, is the source of daily and life long peace. Not peace as the world gives, but peace that gives Brynn and each of us the love, in unity with God/Jesus, to not let our hearts be troubled, nor let them be afraid. But instead to have our hearts opened daily by the Holy Spirit, to eagerly hear the words of Jesus, to teach and remind us of all Jesus said and did, that we might love and live the same, urging all others, especially those of different circumstances than our own, poor and rich, queer and straight, women and men and transgendered, of every skin colour and culture, any and all abilities, indigenous and settler, religious and not, opening our lives and homes and church, prevailing upon everyone if they should find us faithful to God, to come stay in our home with God. This is Brynn’s Baptismal promise and calling, with Lydia, with all of God’s people, namesakes that we all are, of Lydia, of Christ Jesus. Let is be so, in all our relations, now and forever. Amen.