September 13, 2020 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
This Worship at Home Guide is a supplement to our worship services. For your convenience, a printable PDF is available at the bottom of this page.
8:30 a.m. Zoom based worship service.
10:30 a.m. Drive-In Church in the church parking lot.
5:30 p.m. Outdoor worship around the fire pit. Lawn chairs suggested. Bring your own dinner.
Gathering Question/Gathering Music
Opening Sentences Psalm 84:1-4
How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the LORD;
My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself,
Where she may lay her young, O LORD of hosts.
Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise.
Prayer of the Day
O God, light of the hearts that know you, life of the souls that love you,
strength of the thoughts that seek you: grant us your grace and blessing
for the sake of Jesus Christ our redeemer. Amen.
Hymn “Lord, I Want To Be A Christian”
Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart, in my heart;
Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart.
In my heart, in my heart, Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart.
Lord, I want to be more loving in my heart.
Lord, I want to be more loving in my heart, in my heart;
In my heart, in my heart, Lord, I want to be more loving in my heart.
Lord, I want to be more holy in my heart, in my heart;
Lord, I want to be more holy in my heart.
In my heart, in my heart, Lord, I want to be more holy in my heart.
Lord, I want to be like Jesus in my heart, in my heart;
Lord, I want to be like Jesus in my heart.
In my heart, in my heart, Lord, I want to be like Jesus in my heart.
Prayer of Confession
Gracious God, our sins are too heavy to carry, too real to hide, and too deep to undo.
Forgive what our lips tremble to name, what our hearts can no longer bear,
And what has become for us a consuming judgment.
Have mercy on us as we lift our individual prayers to you…
God of Grace, help us to admit our sin, so that as you come to us in mercy,
we will grow more and more in your likeness and image in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Hymn “Spirit of the Living God”
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Melt me; Mold me; Fill me; Use me; Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Scripture/Meditation Acts 16:1-15
Timothy Joins Paul and Silas
Paul went on also to Derbe and to Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer; but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; and he took him and had him circumcised because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they went from town to town, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened daily in the faith and increased in number.
Paul's Vision of the Man of Macedonia
They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 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.
Lydia's Conversion in Philippi
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 worshiper 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.
Questions for Reflection and Discernment
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
Lord, hear; Lord, forgive; Lord, do.
Hear what we speak not; Forgive what we speak amiss; Remind us what we leave undone;
Equip us so we may work for your glory, and the good of your kingdom.
Hear now our individual and collective prayers of thanksgiving and intercession…
Almighty God, whose Word we trust, whose Spirit equips us to pray, we continue to
Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Hymn "God, Be The Love To Search and Keep Me"
God, be the love to search and keep me; God be the prayer to move my voice;
God, be the strength to now uphold me: O Christ, surround me; O Christ, surround me.
Sharing of the Peace: Sharing Jesus’ invitation to his disciples:
Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you!
─ Resources from the Book of Common Worship and Glory to God Hymnal, PCUSA
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Interpretation of Acts 16:1-15
These two stories are found at the beginning of Luke’s construction of Paul’s second missionary journey. It would be difficult to reconstruct a “journey” out of the material Luke gives us, since he has obviously summarized a journey of well over two thousand miles and condensed it into a few verses. We are not told how churches were founded in Galatia and Phrygia. These omissions and condensations remind us that while Luke is working with historical materials his main concerns are theological rather than geographical or historical.
Historical details are not nearly so important to Luke as the theological assertion that “the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily” (Acts 16:15).
New challenges to the church require new leadership. Now we see Paul choose Timothy to accompany him for the mission to Europe. Timothy is chosen not only because he is well thought of but also because in his background he unites both Jew and gentile. Leadership in the church is a function dependent upon what the church needs to have done. One is chosen by the church as a leader not as a matter of privilege or personal right or of individual status but as a function of the church’s mission. The church determines that one has what it takes to facilitate the church’s mission. Timothy’s choice reflects this.
This section also calls our attention to the continual ability of the Spirit to overcome every barrier put in the way of the gospel. Paul chooses to have Timothy circumcised, despite what had been proclaimed by the Church in Jerusalem, presumably because—having a Jewish mother—he is Jewish by birth, and to minimize any resistance in their travels. Here we also learn of a vision Paul receives that directs him away from one place and to another. Interestingly, use of the first-person plural begins in Acts 16:10. These “we” passages comprise a total of ninety-seven verses in Acts: 16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; and 27:1-28:16. Scholars are divided on means. Perhaps Luke has joined the missionary party himself?
Next we meet Lydia (14), a rich businesswoman and worshiper of God. God opens her heart to the gospel and she immediately demonstrates the Christian trait of hospitality, opening her home. The conversation of Lydia is interesting for a number of reasons, First, the narrator makes clear that her conversation is due to the work of God, not Paul’s skill. Second, Lydia is a woman. When compared to conventional Jewish and Greco-Roman ideas about women, the church must have seemed radical in the way it welcomed women and featured them as leaders and prophets (1 Corinthians 11:2-16). Women could be members of this movement without the permission of their husbands, and they may, though Paul advised against it, initiate divorce from a pagan husband (1 Corinthians 7.13).
Perhaps Luke gives prominence to the role of women like Lydia to assure Theophilus’ church—a church which may have regressed to more conventional cultural mores regarding the status of women—that the leadership of women had apostolic precedent. Third, Lydia is a rich woman. That Paul consented to stay in her house as the recipient of her hospitality indicates that barriers which sometimes divided male and female or divided Jew from gentile Jewish convert within the synagogues do not hold in the church. Lydia is now free to be hospitable and Paul is now free to welcome her as a sister in Christ (15).
─ from Acts, A Bible Commentary For Teaching and Preaching, William H. Willimon
Meditation on Acts 16:1-15
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! Blessings in God’s name on this 15th Sunday after Pentecost, or the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time. We continue in the most extended time in the church year, the time referred to as Ordinary Time, so named not because it is a time of low expectations but because it is a time that does not have a holiday, like Christmas or Easter, or the context of a specifically devoted season, such as Advent or Lent. It is a season of growth and the liturgical color is green. This year as we grow into the new ordinary brought on by Covid-19 and the societal unrest in our land, we are focusing on stories from the Acts of the Apostles, overhearing how the early Church found her voice witnessing to what God was doing in Jesus’ name through the Spirit.
This text from Acts is found within the description of Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-18:22). There have been some changes in his traveling companions since the first journey. Acts 15:36-40 shares how there was a dispute of a dispute or disagreement between Paul and Barnabas. Luke frames it in terms of Barnabas wanting John Mark, who had withdrawn from them during the first missionary journey (Acts 13:13), to join in with them once again. Paul, in his letter to the church in Galatia, frames it differently, saying that there was a disagreement between he and Barnabas over the issue of eating with Gentiles (Galatians 2:11-13). Whatever the reason, Paul and Barnabas dissolve their partnership. The former is joined by Silas while Barnabas and John Mark joined company together.
Paul and Silas have headed for the communities in Asia Minor, in the territory of Galatia, founded during the first journey, eventually to Lystra. There he encounters Timothy, the son of a Jewish mother and a Greek father, whom Paul invites to join in the journey and the work. He compels Timothy to be circumcised (with a Jewish mother he was considered to be a Jew) in order to have further hassles with folks they would encounter along the way, even though it seems to be contradictory of Paul’s positions regarding others who are becoming followers of the Way. Amidst the journey Paul is keen to report to the faith communities the decision of the Jerusalem Church to not require circumcision but to require the new believers to refrain from meat sacrificed to idols, meat from animals that had been strangled to death, meat that still held blood, and from sexual fornication. Luke relates that “the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in numbers daily.”
We’re then told that the journey’s course is changed by a word from the Spirit (of Jesus, in this case, Acts 16:7) and a vision. There is an invitation to “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” They make their way by sea and then by land to Neapolis, and then to Philippi, a major city. Thus the Gospel enters Europe, an important historical event. During the sojourn in Philippi, the group encounters a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, among other women who had gathered for worship by a river. Lydia welcomes Paul and his companions into her home after she and her household were baptized. It is in the part of the story that the personal pronoun changes from “they” to “we.” Does this mean Luke himself?
One of the differences within the communities of Jesus’ people, and the Greek and Roman cultures at large was how women were recognized as companions and disciples of Jesus, as persons without needing the oversight of a male figure. This is one of the stories sharing this reality. While women still have yet to receive full equality in many ways, even in our society (women still earn a lower salary in most cases than a man does even for the same work), the experience of women in Paul’s day were even less egalitarian. This comes through in other correspondence of Paul and the early church, often set in opposing women and their opportunities of service and witness to Jesus in the church and society. But here we have Lydia, a recognized woman of wealth (purple dye was the most expensive dye there was, thus making purple cloth very valuable), who is said to have a household of some kind, and no male person is named or listed, even if they existed (a husband, for instance).
This also says something about Paul. Even amidst his contradictions (a reality we all live within ourselves), he engaged women as partners in the process of promulgating the Gospel. In many of his letters he names women he had come to know and to appreciate, encouraging them in their discipleship along with the names of men.
This story illustrates well Paul’s way and is a reminder for it to be our way as well. For years, the Presbyterian Church limited the role of women in its churches. It was not until the 1950’s when a willingness to engage the Bible interpretatively in ways that did not include inherency that allowed Presbyterians to discern on how women were called to be disciples as equally as men. For those who had been given gifts of leadership, opportunities for leadership out of that discipleship including election as deacons, ruling elders, and teaching elders were necessary for their gifts to be honored and shared. Stories such as this one of Lydia were important in the process of this understanding.
How is this important yet today? Do we encourage women in our midst to listen for a call to ordained ministry as Ministers of the Word and Sacrament as enthusiastically as we do men? Do we learn about the challenges that women face in wanting to be mothers as well as making a difference in a field of work of some kind and then commit ourselves as people of faith to seeking change in the system that nurtures the challenges more so than the solutions? Do we check ourselves when it comes to hearing ourselves say “but,” resetting ourselves to find a way to say “and” and work towards possibility rather than discounting opportunity? Do we men commit ourselves to listening to women and the insight they bring of the word and way of the Holy Spirit in our midst? Does the church today honor women?
This question deals not only with women. The honoring of persons is a key component of the Gospel when one listens to Jesus’ voice as it has been transmitted in the Gospels. He recognizes and affirms all persons: young and old, women and men, Jews and Gentiles, persons with challenges of all different kinds. We are among the descendants of those who heard Jesus do so and of those who, like Paul, understood how fundamental the honoring of all persons was to God. The challenge and opportunity continue.