02 August 2009

radical availability

Tomorrow, 3 August, is a day that I note for several reasons. First, it’s the anniversary of my baptism. (It will be #23.) Secondly, it’s the day which commemorates St. Lydia, who we meet in Acts 16. She has her own baptism story, and she practices some radical hospitality, as well. Plus, she’s a dealer in purple cloth—purple being my favorite color (with green as a close second).

Paul, in the midst of his second missionary voyage, stops at Troas (the ancient city of Troy). It’s there that, in the night, he has a vision of a man pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (v. 9). Paul and his associates then set sail through the Aegean Sea and arrive in Europe.

They encounter Lydia in Philippi, one of Macedonia’s biggest cities. She is considered to be Paul’s first European convert. After she and her household are baptized, she urges Paul and his friends to “come and stay at my home” (v. 15). Lydia practices availability with a vengeance! I like the way the verse ends in the NRSV: “And she prevailed upon us.” The New Jerusalem Bible reads, “And she would take no refusal.” You’re coming to my house—I insist!

Lydia’s persistence in hospitality serves Paul well after he and Silas are released from jail. The magistrates, realizing that Paul’s and Silas’ rights as Roman citizens have been violated, urge them to get out of town—quickly and quietly. They really don’t want word of this to get out!

Still, having a place in town to stay gives Paul a great opportunity to encourage the church before they leave, an opportunity he refuses to pass up. All because Lydia insisted on being available! If not for her hospitality, none of this would have been possible; she became a great benefit to the church.

Lydia’s availability is a challenge to all of us. What transformations can happen if we practice availability to God and to our neighbors and to our enemies?

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