Today’s reading from the book of Acts 16:9-15 introduces us to a woman named Lydia. We meet her outside the city gates of Philippi, a Roman city in northern Greece. Lydia was a dealer in purple cloth, the most expensive kind of cloth one could buy in the ancient world. The color purple was only for the wealthy and those with immense political power. The process needed to create purple dye was expensive, time consuming and very smelly. Those who made the dye were sometimes pushed out of polite society because the work was so harsh and tainted. Lydia was the owner of her own business which invites us to think of her in a few different ways. We can imagine her as strong, independent and wealthy - someone with status and power. Or we can imagine her as someone pushed aside who was not considered part of the Philippi community. Lydia’s name is even a little bit odd because it seems to identify the place she was from (a region in modern Turkey). Lydia could have been a former slave, an immigrant or a migrant. The text does not let us limit Lydia to only one identity. Instead, I think the author of Acts wanted us to realize that we shouldn’t expect Lydia to be where she was. Paul shouldn’t be meeting Lydia. And we should think of her as having whatever identity makes us recognize just how odd this moment was.

Paul had a dream that God was calling him to bring the gospel to Europe. He saw a man asking him for the good news. But what he found instead was a group of women. These women, after experiencing the gift of faith and the presence of the Holy Spirit, then do something unexpected: they offered hospitality. When we talk about sharing our faith, we point out how we need to offer hospitality to others. At CLC, we model this hospitality by printing our entire worship service in a bulletin, saying hello to everyone visiting for the first time, inviting everyone to the Lord’s table, and making sure our faith isn’t lived out only within these eight walls. Part of our calling as followers of Jesus is to offer hospitality to everyone. But another aspect of that calling is that God wants us to accept hospitality too. When you accept hospitality, you create a moment when you can strengthen a relationship. And once that relationship is strengthened, you will find yourself doing what you never thought possible: you will share Jesus through words and deeds.