“When I Look at Your Heavens”

Meditation on Psalm 8

May 22, 2016

Trinity Sunday: MIPC

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To the leader: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David. O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

***

When our granddaughter, Jessi, came to visit us last weekend, I was in awe of the little girl. She had changed so much since the last time we had seen her at her home in Boston–when she was only 10 months old, not yet walking, and hardly talking. We wanted to get to know her, but she and her parents, Daniel and Hiu-fai, were only staying with us 3 days. I found myself watching her intently–making mental note of her expressions, the sound of her voice, her laughter, her likes and dislikes. What made her sad or afraid.

Happily, she still had many new things to experience with us here, her first time in Florida! They went to the beach.

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Jessi liked the water, but was a bit intimidated by the ocean! She loved playing in the sand.

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After church on Sunday, we went to lunch and learned that Jessi loves Panera bread!

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We went to the zoo after that. Jessi saw her first baby giraffe!

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We went on a walk in our neighborhood. slide Jessi made friends with Molly, our sheltie.

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The friendship grew to love.

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On Monday, our last full day together, we went to Kennedy Space Center.

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Jessi was excited about seeing “spaceships.”

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She showed Grandpa how to spacewalk.

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On the way to the Vehicle Assembly Building, Jessi sang, “The wheels on the bus go round and round.”

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We experienced many touching moments together that day. I particularly enjoyed the newest Imax feature, “A Beautiful Planet.”

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The movie provides breathtaking views of our world, and shares the hopes for future space exploration. But it also highlights the need to take better care of our beautiful planet. Cosmonauts went into space to learn and experience new worlds; they came back with revealing photos of the earth, wounded by human abuse, giving us new understandings of the world in which we live.

I felt inspired, as well, when we listened to the 1962 clip of Kennedy’s, “We go to the moon speech” at one of the exhibits.

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No doubt it helped change the course of history and lifted our country out of fear and into hope. Here is a small excerpt. “I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war,” said JFK, “without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours. There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the Moon! … We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win …”

Well, you know how the 60s ended. We did get to the moon and safely back.

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What you might not know is that Psalm 8 went to the moon, too, with the Apollo 11 mission. It went on a disc the size of a silver dollar; with messages from 73 other countries; God’s Word remains there today.

***

Psalm 8 is the first hymn of praise in the book of Psalms; its poetic voice is personal–“I” and “You”– conveying the intimate relationship between God and the psalmist. It is one of a large collection of “psalms of David,” which could mean that David wrote them or commissioned them to be written or authorized them for use. We know this psalm was used in worship because there are notes to the worship leader after the title, “to the leader, according to the Gittith.” Gittith may be the tune to which it is sung or a stringed instrument–perhaps a zither– that was played as the psalm was sung.

The Psalm’s focus is on creation, taking us back to Genesis. The first line–repeated at the end — is difficult to translate. The first word is the proper name of God –YHWH–which isn’t spoken in Hebrew because of its holiness. It is translated “Adonai” meaning “Lord” or “our Lord.” Like Abraham when he longed for a child, the psalmist looks up at the night sky with awe and wonder as he both praises and questions the Lord.

If you are a little puzzled by the second verse that begins–“Out of the mouths of babes and infants.” Don’t be feel badly. Scholars struggle with this verse, too. Many believe it to be another illustration of what seems to be weak and foolish in this world to human beings is, in God’s reality, what is wise and strong. The young children’s song of praise to God will serve as protection from God’s enemies.

Looking at God’s creation, the psalmist can’t help but compare human beings with the Lord. For it is when we seek to know the Lord better that we begin to see and understand ourselves as we really are. In the face of God’s magnificent acts of creation, the psalmist realizes how seemingly unimportant and insignificant human beings are. And yet, we aren’t unimportant or insignificant to God! The psalmist asks in verses 3 and 4,

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The psalmist describes how the Lord views human beings, created in God’s image. We are just a “little lower than God,” says verse 5. The word, elohim, translated “God” here is sometimes translated as “gods” with a small g or “divine beings.” If we connect this passage to the elohim in the story of Creation, then it makes sense to translate elohim as it is in Genesis–God. We find something different from the author of Hebrews. He translates this word “angels” when he interprets Psalm 8. He speaks from a New Testament perspective, as Hebrews testifies to God’s love for us revealed in the sacrifice of his Son for our sakes.

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Psalm 8:5 tells of God’s gifts and expectations of us with royal language. God has “crowned” human beings with “glory and honor and given them dominion over the works of (God’s) hands.” God expects us to tend and care for the Creation–just like when the Lord formed man from the dust of the earth and put him in the garden to “tend it and keep it.” The “works of God’s hands” are “all things” God has created. The earth, air, water, plants, animals, human beings are “under our feet.” They are not ours to trample, crush or destroy, but to watch over and care for–for all of our days.

***

My message today, on this day we honor our new graduates, is especially for our young adults. You will change in the years to come. You are already not what you were when you woke up this morning. Trust the Spirit. Embrace the changes. Don’t be afraid.

God loves you and wants a relationship with you even more than Jim and I long to have a relationship with our little granddaughter who lives in Boston. The Lord wants to be your comfort and strength and help you as you experience new things. But you have to seek to have a relationship with the Lord. God wants to hear your voice, your laughter; share your likes and dislikes. God also wants to be the one you go to when no one else seems to be listening, when no one else seems to care.

God will always be there.

Keep on hoping and dreaming, though the going may get hard. And it may take years of overcoming obstacles and fears, possibly failures, too, before you begin to see your visions coming true. Our nation’s space exploration story is one of hopes and dreams, with years of struggle, fears and failures, the greatest of which was the loss of astronauts’ lives. We have more obstacles to overcome ahead–especially as we set our sights on Mars. But we have successes behind us, including what most people thought before 1969 was never going to happen–we went to the moon and safely back!

On the Apollo 11 mission, astronaut Buzz Aldrin,

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an elder in a Presbyterian church in Houston, read aloud Psalm 8:

 

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You have set your glory above the heavens.

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Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.

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the moon

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and the stars that you have established;

what are human beings that you are mindful of them,

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mortals that you care for them?

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Yet you have made them a little lower than God,

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and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;

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you have put all things under their feet,

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all sheep and oxen,

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and also the beasts of the field,

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the birds of the airSlide37

 

and the fish of the sea

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whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

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O Lord, our Lord, slide how majestic is your name in all the earth!

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Let us pray. Majestic Lord, we lift up your Holy Name and give you our thanks and praise! We come to you as weak and frail human beings, seemingly insignificant and unimportant. But we are not insignificant and unimportant to you, our Lord! Thank you for your love and for making us in your image, but a little lower than you, and for crowning us with glory and honor, though we don’t deserve royal treatment. Thank you for entrusting your beautiful Creation to us to tend and keep, to watch over and care for. Help us, our Lord, to better care for our world, to be more faithful stewards of the works of your hands. Lead us to share your love and healing Words with a wounded and broken world. And we ask that you continue to guide, strengthen and bless the teens and young adults of our church family. Lead them to walk in the paths you want them to go–and to hold on to their faith, no matter what. We ask these things in your Son’s precious name. Amen.

“Living the Spirit-filled Life”

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Meditation on Acts 2:1-21

Pentecost 2016/MIPC

     When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’

       But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
“In the last days it will be, God declares,

       that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

****

It started with, “I like your dress.” That’s what I said to the little brown-haired girl squirming on the bench in front of me on Saturday morning.

Jim and I were gathered with a crowd in a large gymnasium in Marshall, Minnesota, waiting for commencement to begin. Our youngest son, James, was graduating from Southwest Minnesota State University with a bachelor’s degree in social work.

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I was happy for him and proud that he chose to stay in Minnesota on his own to finish his senior year of college when we moved to Florida last fall. But I was sad, too. We hadn’t seen him since Christmas. And we were returning to Florida on Sunday. We would have 1 day and 1 night–a supper and a breakfast together–and that’s all. It will probably be months before we see him again.

The little brown haired girl wore a sleeveless, flowered dress.

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She was about 6 or 7 years old. She methodically tapped the bottoms of 2 “Dixie” cups together, staring off with a glum expression.

The older woman sitting quietly beside her wore the traditional dress of her culture and the coverings of her faith. Another little brown haired girl–who looked about 3 –sitting on the other side of the woman was staring intently at the woman’s phone.

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She was playing some kind of a game. Turned out it was, “Hello Kitty Nail Salon.” She rubbed her fingertips on the screen back and forth until bright color was filled in for each nail. Then she added Hello Kitty art.

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“I love Hello Kitty!” I said and motioned to my Hello Kitty purse on the floor and my Hello Kitty phone cover.

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The little girls laughed and included me in their game after that, showing me every nail they filled in and every design they chose. They squealed with delight when they painted the nails a sparkly blue–and pointed to mine, some of which are sparkly blue.

We laughed together. Then, I showed them photos of Hello Kitty Nail Art from Google.

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Excited, their voices grew louder. And a man dressed in traditional garb, sitting next to the 3-year old girl, turned to the children and said something in a firm voice in a language I didn’t know. But from his serious expression, I am pretty sure he was telling them to be quiet and sit still, cause that’s what they did–for a minute or 2.

The graduation exercises had begun. Then all the speeches. Then the graduates came walking in to “Pomp and Circumstance.” And there was James!

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Not long afterward, the little girls left the room with the man. I worried that maybe I got them into trouble. I shouldn’t have worried. They had visited one of the vendors in the lobby. They came back carrying lip gloss with Disney’s “Frozen” characters.

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I complimented them on their purchases and told them how grown up they looked with their lip gloss “makeovers.”

 

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They looked pleased with themselves.

The family left before the end of commencement. But before they left, the little brown haired girl of 6 or 7 turned to me suddenly and said very seriously, “Thank you for playing with me!”

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“It was my pleasure,” I said. “Thank you!”

As they walked away, I realized that my mood had lifted almost instantly with our Hello Kitty exchange. A breath of fresh air blew into our minds and hearts. As we left the gym, I thought about how the Spirit visits us each day, comforting, teaching and guiding us in big and small ways that we might not even notice.

I hadn’t planned on reaching out with the love and joy of Jesus Christ that day. I only thought of my own and my family’s needs and desires. But the Spirit used me, anyway, because it’s always with me, even if I forget. It led me to reach out to a little brown haired girl from a different culture. Because the Spirit won’t stop working in us to do the reconciling work of the Lord until that Great Day when Jesus returns for His Church.

Something stirred my heart to speak to her–not to tell her that Jesus loved her, perhaps, but to show Jesus’ love with a simple, encouraging word.

The healing conversation started with, “I like your dress.”

 

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My experience with the Spirit at commencement was but a glimmer of what the followers of Jesus Christ experienced in Acts 2; 120 of Christ’s followers gather in a house in Jerusalem to pray and wait on the Spirit, as Jesus told them to do. The followers include Mary, the mother of Jesus, Jesus’ brothers and the original 12 disciples except for Judas Iscariot; Matthias was chosen to take Judas’ place. We don’t know what kind of a house it was or if it was the upstairs room mentioned in the first chapter. It could possibly have been the Temple as that is referred to as a “house–” the house of God. The problem is they were “sitting together”; they didn’t usually sit when they worshiped in the Temple.

“Pentecost,” by the way, is Greek for “50th day.” Pentecost falls 50 days after Passover and is a pilgrimage festival called “Shavuot” in Hebrew or “Feast of Weeks.” It marks the giving of the 10 commandments to Moses, and the book of Ruth is traditionally read.

So Jerusalem is crowded with “devout” pilgrims coming from the diaspora to worship the Lord and be with God’s people. Here are some of the places mentioned. Is it “every nation” in the whole world?

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Not quite. Scholars say the language points to the future fulfillment of the Great Commission in Matthew.

And what of this “sound … like the rush of a violent wind”?

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This wind–or what sounded like a fierce wind– enables every person to hear the message of the Risen Christ in his or her native language, though it was preached by Jesus’ disciples from Galilee, who couldn’t possibly know that many languages. This fulfills Old Testament prophesy of Joel 2:28-32 that Peter quotes beginning at verse 17 and the promise of resurrection for Israel in Ezekiel 37:13-14: “13And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live…”

But even though every person hears and understands, not everyone believes. Some are amazed and others “sneer,” accusing them of being “filled with new wine.” New wine hasn’t had time to begin turning to vinegar and the alcoholic content is at its height. Here is a 1st century wine pressing trough in Jerusalem.

 

 

Peter responds to the scoffers, “Drunk? We’re not drunk. It’s only 9 o’clock in the morning!” Don’t you love that? This is Peter, who didn’t always say the right things. It’s like he’s saying, “Well, we could be drunk–if it were later in the day!”

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But this is Peter, powered by the Spirit. Suddenly he is eloquent and bold, preaching his first sermon from verse 14 to 39. He doesn’t hold back, despite the fact that what happened to Jesus could easily happen to him. In verse 36, Peter declares, “Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

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When many of the people heard this, they were “cut to the heart” and asked Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter answers, in verse 38, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Three thousand were added to the Church that day– all because of the power of God flowing out in response to Christ’s followers faithful gathering for prayer, anticipating the coming of the Lord.

The promise of the Spirit-filled life is in vs. 21, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” But the Spirit that dwells within us is for God’s work and not just for our own well-being, not just for our own salvation. The Spirit came, will come, and is already here because the Lord wants to draw all people to Himself. And the Spirit won’t stop working until Christ in all His glory returns for His Church.

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So let us keep on calling on the name of the Lord–crying out to Him together, and following God’s voice in our Spirit-filled lives.

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May we be as bold as Peter. May we allow God to use us. May we be stirred to share the message of God’s mercy and grace with the world–not just with our words, but with acts of kindness and love.

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The life-changing conversation may begin with a simple encouraging word to a little brown-haired girl sitting in front of you.

“I like your dress.”

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Let us pray.

 

Holy Spirit, fall afresh on us. Renew us. Transform us. Make us into the image of Jesus Christ. Change our hearts and minds so that we aren’t always just thinking of ourselves, but that we are concerned for the wellbeing of the world that doesn’t yet know your love, mercy and grace. Stir us to reach out with love and kindness to people outside our familiar, comfortable circles of friends and family. Move us to share your grace with people of different cultures, languages and faiths. Draw us to gather for prayer, like the apostles long ago, and wait expectantly for the Great Day of the Lord, when Jesus, in all His glory, returns for His Church. In his name we pray. Amen.

The Household of God

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Meditation on Acts 16:9-15

May 1, 2016

***

   During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.

    We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. A certain woman named Lydia, a worshipper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.’ And she prevailed upon us.

 

***

 

I can’t wait for our silent auction and luncheon today! You know that I love eating, and I hate cooking!

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But I also look forward to the fellowship. It feels good to be with our brothers and sisters in the Lord. We are members of the Household of God, which goes beyond what we can see or imagine. When we gather at the table for a congregational meal, much like when we gather for Communion, we witness to our unity, our joy and our love.

Our Tuesday night suppers have brought me peace and a feeling of closeness with all our regulars and our wonderful Fellowship Committee.

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They work hard to bless us, preparing and serving meals for our congregation and friends from September through April! Very few churches offer this kind of ministry.

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If you didn’t come to our Tuesday night suppers this season, you missed out on opportunities to minister to people in need and to have others, at times, minister to you.

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Today I have yet another reason to be happy we are gathering for a congregational meal.

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The proceeds from our silent auction will help pay for the youth to attend the Montreat Youth Conference in July. I am hoping to go with them. Friends, relationships take time and space to blossom and grow. At the conference, our teens and adult leaders will be sharing housing and eating, worshiping, studying and enjoying recreational activities together.

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The conference, “A World of Difference”, invites teens to come just as they are, to get away from the stress and routine of their lives and be refreshed as they listen for God’s voice in a beautiful, wooded setting.

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What’s exciting about the conference is not just the spiritual and biblical teaching and inspiring worship, but that our teens will meet youth from all over the country who are trying to be Christians in what is, essentially, a secular society. I pray that our youth, coming from a congregation with so few teenagers, will be empowered and affirmed in their faith, being reassured that they are not the only teens who care about Jesus and the Church.

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It is good for them to see that they are not the only youth in the Household of God! May they be stirred to become more faithful followers, humble servants of Him.

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In the Acts of the Apostles, we have excellent models of Christ’s humble servants, moved to acts of kindness and hospitality. In Acts 16, Paul is journeying with Silas in the southeastern province of Galatia, visiting the cities Paul and Barnabas had evangelized 2 or 3 years before- Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and probably Pisidian Antioch.

 

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At Lystra, young Timothy (believed to be a teenager at the time) joins them in their mission work. Timothy’s mother and grandmother are Jewish believers; his father is a Greek nonbeliever. The churches at this time are growing in faith and number, “day by day,” 16:5 tells us. As the three men pass through the Phyrygian and Galatian region, the Holy Spirit stops them from going to Asia and Bithynia. They end up reaching the sea at Alexandria Troas, a Roman colony and regular port of call for vessels journeying between Asia and Macedonia. Ancient Macedonia was a region north of Greece, a border territory, in what is southeastern Europe.

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In Acts 16:9, Paul sees a vision of a man of Macedonia, appealing to him for help.

Something interesting happens in the text in verse 10. The narrative voice turns from third person to first person. Let’s look at verse 10. “When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.” This is the first part of the “we/I” section of Acts. Some think this means that Luke, the author, possibly the physician mentioned in Col. 4:14, joins Paul, Silas, and Timothy at this point of the journey and includes himself as a witness in the account.

The group sails and ends up, 2 days later, in Philippi, a city in Macedonia, which Luke identifies as a Roman colony, unlike the other Roman colonies that Paul evangelizes. The reason is probably because the law of a Roman colony is important to the story of Lydia. Women in Macedonia were known for their independence and under Roman law, which governed life in the colony, freeborn women with three children and freedwomen with four children were granted the right, among other privileges, to undertake legal transactions on their own initiative.

On the Sabbath, Paul, Timothy, Silas and Luke don’t go to a synagogue, as they usually do when they first enter a town. Perhaps this town didn’t have a large enough Jewish population to support a synagogue, which must, by Jewish law, have at least 10 men at every service. They go outside the gate of the city by the bank of the river Gangites. They have heard about a group of faithful women who gather at the river on every Sabbath to go through the Jewish service of prayer. They sit down with them, and Paul begins teaching them about Jesus.

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It’s important that this story follows Peter’s vision of the meat blanket and God’s Kingdom being opened to all people–Jew and Gentile– and the Jerusalem Church coming to agree with him. For one of the women–Lydia, a name that means “the Lydian woman,” is a God-fearing Gentile from Thyatira, a province of Asia. Thyatira lay in the territory of the ancient kingdom of Lydia. The people of that area were famous for the manufacture of purple dye, extracted from the juice of the madder root. Lydia had come to Philippi as a trader in that dye.

Verse 14 tells us that God initiates Lydia’s conversion. “The Lord opened her heart to pay heed to what Paul was saying.” Notice that it isn’t an intellectual understanding that makes her a Christian! Her heart is open to hearing from the Lord. Lydia, who is Paul’s first convert in Europe, is immediately baptized in the river, along with her whole household.

This is one of at least 4 instances in Acts when an entire household is baptized after the head of the household comes to believe. This happens with Cornelius in Acts 10 and 11, with the Philippian jailer later in Acts 16, and with Crispus in Acts 18. Lydia’s is the only account when the head of the household is a woman. This brings to mind Peter’s promise in Acts 2 to the new believers in Jerusalem who heard his preaching and were “pierced to the heart”: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”

Lydia’s household would include more than just her immediate family; as would the households of Cornelius, the Philippian jailer, and Crispus; it would also include servants and other dependents. We don’t know if Lydia is married or a widow; Luke doesn’t tell us. But it’s clear that Luke intends for her acts of kindness and hospitality to be proof of her devotion to the Lord and His Church. Verse 15 says, “When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.’ And she prevailed upon us.” Other translations say, “She would take no refusal.”

God opened her heart; she, in turn, joyfully opened her home. She wouldn’t take no for an answer!

And the word “household” came to have a broader meaning for Christians than just families, servants and other dependents living together. Household came to mean the Church of every time and place, connected by one Savior, one faith.

Paul tells the Ephesians, in chapter 2:19-20: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.”

***

Brothers and sisters, I thank you for your kind support of the youth! Thank you for your donations, your encouragement of them and your love and prayers for those who may be, because of their youth and all the pressures they feel in this secular world, the most vulnerable members of the Household of God. May the Lord open the hearts of all who attend the conference–adults and teens– and may they feel the peace and joy of God’s loving presence on their journey there and back. May the Spirit stir them to renew their commitment to Christ so that they may go and share God’s love with the world.

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Like Lydia, may they be moved to acts of kindness and hospitality as Christ’s ever-faithful followers, humble servants of Him.

 

Let us pray.

 

Heavenly Father, thank you for your love and grace that led you to give up your only Son, the Risen Savior, for our sakes! Thank you for opening our hearts so that we, like Lydia, Cornelius, Crispus, and the Philippian jailer would hear your voice and be stirred to be your followers. Be with our youth, Lord, as they seek to witness to your saving love in a secular world, where so many young people don’t have hearts to love you and serve the Church. Bless the youth leaders and other volunteers as they seek to nurture our young people and lead them on straight paths. Stir us all to pray more, to gather in quiet places like Lydia and the other woman at the river Gangites. Empower us to acts of kindness and hospitality that give evidence of the authenticity of our faith and build up the Household of God. Help us to be your humble servants. In Christ we pray.