Mi Casa Es Su Casa

Acts 16:9-15 – The 6th Sunday of Easter – for Sunday, May 5, 2013

“A certain woman named Lydia, a worshipper of God, was listening to us…” (Luke 16:14)

The Gangitis River, in the district of Macedonia
The Gangitis River, in the district of Macedonia

Along the banks of the Gangitis River, in the district of Macedonia, a certain woman named Lydia heard Paul’s first-century message about the good news of Christ Jesus.

Soon after, Lydia and her household were baptized.

Which made her, based on the stories shared in the Acts of the Apostles, the first woman baptized on the European continent.

In Acts, Lydia spoke a singular sentence:

If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.

At the end of the 16th chapter of Acts, the only chapter in the New Testament where her name appeared, she was referenced once more. Following a brief stint in the local slammer, Paul and his companions beelined for Lydia’s home. Then, after an interview or two by eager Macedonia-based reporters, an update of his blog and Facebook page, Paul and his buddies skedaddled from Phillipi.

Lydia was never heard from again. Like Tabitha (also a woman named in Acts), she was a charter member of the club of obscure New Testament women. We know little about Lydia, other than she was . . .

  • A woman
  • In Macedonia
  • A seller of purple cloth
  • Wealthy (or indebted) enough to have a household
  • Someone who met Paul
  • Baptized

And, with apologies to everyone else that speaks better Spanish than me, her singular statement was a variation of: Mi Casa Es Su Casa.

My home is your home.

I assume Lydia’s life changed for the better, but that is only and forever an assumption. After all, she left the story.

I assume Paul’s encounter with Lydia influenced his life for the better, but that is only and forever an assumption. After all, she’s only mentioned in chapter 16 and doesn’t appear among the friends and co-workers listed in the letters attributed to Paul.

It’s easy and fun to play a “what if” game about Paul and Lydia: Continue reading →

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Impossible Is Possible

Acts 10:44-48 (and also earlier in Acts 10) – The 6th Sunday of Easter – for May 13, 2012

“…the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.” (Acts 10:45)

In order to fully appreciate what prompted the very Jewish Peter, a.k.a. the future first Pope, to declare that Gentiles—non-Jews!—were acceptable for baptism (Acts 10:44-48), I backtracked a few pages and verses.

Earlier in his ministry, Jesus bequeathed a new name on Simon the fisherman. Simon became Peter the disciple. In Greek, Peter means “rock.” Jesus famously called the erstwhile angler a “rock upon which I will build my church.” Aha! Pontiff #1 was a “rock star.”

What! Pigs can't fly!? (photo from PA Photos)

Peter-nicknamed-Rock also seemed to have stones for brains. After all, the traditional first Pope of the Roman Catholic Church—eventually known as Papa, Summus Pontifex, Pontifex Maximus and Servus servorum Dei—was the same guy who lied about Jesus. The future Pontiff #1, warming his hands around a fire while religious bigwigs grilled Jesus, denied knowing the preacher from Galilee (Luke 22:54-62). Old Rocky didn’t lie once, but three times . . . and it makes me weep every time I read it. Indeed, Luke reported that Simon Granite-for-Brains Peter also wept after lying, lying, lying.

And yet I’m grateful for Peter’s deceit and tears. As a sometimes less-than-honest and occasionally weepy modern day follower of Jesus, I’m glad to share some dubious character traits with Pontiff #1.

There’s more to Peter’s rocky start. Before Saint Metamorphic changed his mind and announced baptism could be a full-service sacrament in Acts 10:44-48, he grappled with a dietary dilemma. Near the beginnings of that chapter he did what proper Jews then and now do: he prayed. At noon, according to the Bible, he’d trudged up to the roof of a building and went about his ritual of prayer.

And lo, his prayers were answered . . . or weren’t answered?

Praying can be a dangerous endeavor. Whether through traditional words, in humble silence or even when we spontaneously blather on, confessing or justifying mistakes, prayer means we’re conversing with God. However The Lord God Almighty can be notoriously cranky with the Divine side of the chat. Or perhaps, to be a tad more reverent, the Holy One is oft mysterious and unfathomable.

But I’ll stick with cranky because sometimes . . . I pray, but God seems silent, indifferent. It gets worse. I pray, fervently or routinely, and God answers. But it’s not the answer I wanted! Continue reading →

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See Jane Run…

Mark 1:9-15 – 1st Sunday of Lent – for February 26, 2012

“…Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.” (Mark 1:9)

I was baptized once.

No, hundreds of times.

Raised in the American Baptist Church, my parents had me “dedicated” as a baby, but it would be my decision for a formal, full-immersion baptism. As a United Methodist clergy, most of the baptisms I’ve celebrated have been squirming infants while I dribbled H2O on their heads. Thus, based on my childhood church’s traditions, and the denomination I serve as a so-called responsible adult, I’m uniquely qualified to argue with myself about when (and how) a believer should be baptized.

Let’s see what you believe . . .

Those who think infants should be baptized, please line-up against the digital wall on the right side of the virtual room. And you adults-only supporters . . . over to the left wall. Both sides, please behave!

I’ll remain in the middle of the room and give a quiz:

The proper way to use the baptismal water is:

A. Minister sprinkles water on head once
B. Minister sprinkles water on head three times (symbolizing Father, Son and Holy Ghost or Creator, Christ and Spirit or . . .)
C. For a once-only ceremony, minister pinches believer’s nose closed and immerses her/him in water.
D. For as many times as it takes (for sinners keep sinning and need to be saved again…and again…and again), the minister pinches believer’s nose closed and immerses her/him in water.
E. The water better be a river, and not just a Jolly Green Giant-sized bathtub behind the sanctuary’s altar.
F. Who needs a minister? Like Robert Duvall’s Sonny in “The Apostle,” you can baptize yourself.

Is it okay to baptize yourself? Duvall's character Sonny did it in "The Apostle."

At “F” I grew weary (wary?), so that’s where the quiz ends. (For example, I began research on Anabaptists and their baptismal beliefs and practices, but my head started hurting. So “F” is where I’ll stop, though I hope it’s not the grade I’ll get as I reflect about this wondrous sacrament.)

It’s complicated: who we baptize and when; how we baptize and why.

And yet, maybe not. For Christians, before baptism evolved into a sacrament, a special set-aside ritual to acknowledge and celebrate a believer’s trust in the God revealed by Jesus Christ, it was the simple act of a man* wading into the Jordan River.

Therefore, let me tell you about Jane. That’s not her real name, but I do want to protect her identity. I grew up in the 1950/60s and recall those insipid, vaguely helpful, Dick and Jane (See Jane run!) books that taught kids how to read. Dear, sweet Jane. A simple name: easy to pronounce and neutral. So I’ll use it to keep my Jane anonymous. Continue reading →

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