I remember a couple of brothers that misbehaved in church. They were well known for their bad behavior and attitudes. About half way through their senior year of high school, they began to get more involved in youth events. They actually brought their bibles to church and paid attention during the sermons. Later, they asked to meet with the pastor, to ask him for a letter of recommendation to attend Bible College. The pastor, asked them a series of questions about their faith. One of which was as follows. “What changed in the last year?” To which the older brother replied, “Your sermons suddenly got a lot more interesting about 6 months ago, prior to that, I don’t know what you were doing wrong.”
Many of us find ourselves paying attention to any number of things in our lives. We are bombarded with work, money, and family issues. Luke wants to teach us something about waking up and paying attention in life. And he wants to accomplish this by recounting to us Paul’s trip to Philippi and his encounter with a woman named Lydia.
Lydia is an immigrant to Philippi. She is originally from Thyratira. She moved from Thyratira where she grew up, in order to sell the clothing. Her life is not unlike many of us. We have come to a foreign country to work as English teachers. She herself was a Greek woman. However, she is what the Jews called a “worshiper of God” vs. 14. This simply means that she had an interest in the God of Israel. She was a seeker. She found a local group of woman who gathered to pray. Paul, realizing there is no synagogue, finds the group of women and offers to talk to them. We’re told that Lydia, had her heart opened by God to pay attention to what Paul said.
God blessed Lydia and opened her heart and she heard Paul in a way that caused her to PAY very Close attention to what he said. What you have here in this passage is Paul, a man with a heart opened by God to pay attention to the Gospel realities of Jesus Christ is preaching to a group of woman. Of those women, the message reaches the heart of one of them, who also has her heart opened by God himself to pay attention to it. What does it mean to “pay attention”. We recognize that to pay attention has more to do with the heart of the hearer than the ears of the hearer.
Luke recounts for us a meeting between one who pays attention and a group of woman who were not paying attention. It’s not unlike our current meeting here. Some in this room are well aware of the goodness, grace, mercy, and love of Jesus Christ today. Some of you when you encounter difficulties in your life you immediately think of prayer as the way to deal with it. Some of you when you see a financial trouble in your life, walk in faith relying on God to provide that next bit of money. Some of you when you wake up in the morning your mind turns to God and scripture. Some of you do not sleep until you’ve had time to pray and tell God about your day. In each of these cases the life, the full life, is expressed in a heart that pays attention to the WORK of GOD in all things. On the contrary, there are hearts that cannot, do not, and refuse to pay attention or give due credit for all that God is and has done in their lives. There are hearts that forget the work of God in the morning. They do not pray when they are in need. They do not see the intent of God in moving their lives. They come to Church as a social group or a religious educational opportunity. There is a kind of sight going on here, a sense that you get what is going on, but ultimately, deep down, the heart is closed to the truth about Jesus Christ and all he is and must be in your life.
How do we know Lydia was paying attention? How do we know she really believed? She was baptized. This means she confessed and repented of her sins. Secondly, she began to take care of the people around her. She preached the gospel to her family and they were baptized. She assumes the burden of housing Paul and his companions. She supports the spread of the gospel. Later she would no doubt become part of the Church established at this very site’ the Church of Philippi. She was awake and paying attention for the first time in her life.