Sixth Sunday of Easter

Bearers of Good News – 5 May 2013

Since Easter Sunday just five weeks ago, we’ve been having a feast on The Word of God in the Book of Acts.  In the light of the resurrection of Jesus, we’ve been presented with a transformed group of disciples who have had their fears replaced by boldness and conviction, so much so that people’s lives were being transformed in the process.  Peter and Paul have been featured over these past few weeks as we’ve seen them being confronted by a God who is ushering in a new framework of belief and action.  Today in Acts 16: 9-15 we find Paul and Silas being led by the Holy Spirit to refrain from going to certain places (Acts 16:6-8) because God had already prepared the heart (and household) of a woman by the name of Lydia in Philippi to receive God’s Good News.  “Paul had a vision.  He saw a man from Macedonia in Northern Greece, pleading with him, “Come over here and help us” (Acts 16:10).  So Paul & Silas obey the Holy Spirit and leave Asia Minor and head over to Macedonia, a region of the Balkan Peninsula in Europe.

When they arrived there they met a woman in Philippi called Lydia, who came from the city of Thyatira (today, Akhisar) in Asia Minor.  Lydia was a “dealer in purple cloth”, and the head of her household.  She was also a “worshiper of God” (v.14).  “As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted [the Good News] what Paul was saying” (v.14).  “She was baptized along with the other members of her household” (v.15).

So the first convert to the early church in Europe is an Asian woman.  Can you see the radical shift that is taking place in this experience?  A move of God that is no longer constrained geographically to Israel.  Gender distinctions and socio-economic boundaries are being altered (Lydia, a female is a merchant).  Conversion and baptism is being effected in families and communities (v.15).  The Holy Spirit is being poured out on Jews AND Gentiles (Acts 10:44,45), which indicates that cultural and religious distinctions are being abolished.   Peter, Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, John Mark and the other apostles are willing to put their lives on the line.    The Gospel/Good News is being preached in accordance to Jesus’ great commission “Go into ALL the world, making disciples of ALL peoples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and The Holy Spirit, teaching them to do everything I have commanded you to do.  I will be with you always, even until the end of the world” (Matt 28:18).

The Holy Spirit who is spoken about by Jesus in John 14:23-29 becomes a natural part of the apostles lives and ministry.  Holy Spirit as Counselor is leading the believers into all truth (John 14:17).  Just as Paul and Silas have been led by the Spirit to Philippi to be bearers of The Good News, we are to be led by God’s Holy Spirit in every endeavor of mission for the ‘great commission’ (Matt 28:18).  Hence our vision at Ashmore Uniting Church is “Reaching out, Changing Lives”.

The Holy Spirit was a catalyst for change in the early Church.  Remarkably the first church in Europe was a home church (Acts 16:15) that began by a group of women who were meeting on a riverbank (Acts 16:13) for prayer.  Paul and Silas (and Luke – Acts 16:10) began to grasp that God has no preference for male or female in Christian community in terms of inclusion and opportunities for service and spiritual leadership.  Lydia and her household and community become bearers of Good News.

How might you be led by The Holy Spirit to be a bearer of Good News ….. this week.

Rev. Brad Foote

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