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From Derbe to Phillipii
Sunday school lesson for the week of November 15, 2015
By Dr. Charlene Black
Lesson scripture: Acts 16: 1-15
Prompted by the Holy spirit to “offer them Christ,” Paul began his second missionary journey which will lead to the spread of Christianity to Europe and ultimately to the entire western world.
Paul’s journey was a model for many missionaries including two South Georgians. Bishop Arthur J. Moore, a native of Waycross, had been named Bishop not only of Georgia, but also of China, Japan, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Belgian Congo, Poland and Korea. The vibrant Korean church is a testimony to his effectiveness. South Georgians remember him most for his vision in securing the property for Epworth By The Sea.
Mary Culler White, whose home church was Hawkinsville, took the gospel to China, being forced to leave when the Cultural Revolution banished the missionaries. As a teenager I was privileged to hear Miss White at a Youth and Missions Conference at Lake Junaluska. Her inspiring book, “I was there when it happened in China,” is one of my cherished possessions. While visiting Central China Normal University in Wuhan I met a professor who knew about Miss White’s work in bringing education to children.
About 150 years ago Methodist women sent Dr. Clara Swain and Isabella Thoburn, a teacher, to India to live the Gospel through serving women.
In 1998 I climbed the Great Wall of China with a female student who confided in me that she and her mother were Christians and that a group of followers of Christ met in their home weekly. The seeds planted long ago had sprouted.
The impact of our mission work is eternal. We plant the seeds and if they fall on fertile soil they grow and prosper.
As Paul began his second missionary journey he split with Barnabas and selected Silas as his companion. We don’t know the reason. Perhaps the former partners were not a good match; the choosing of a partner is a critical decision. In Lystra Paul invites Timothy who had a Jewish mother and a Greek father to join them. Timothy was a good choice for entering the Gentile territories to which God was about to call Paul.
God sends Paul a vision of a Macedonian man calling him to come over and help him.
Have you ever received a vision from God? How did you respond? Did you obey the message God sent?
Reading Chapter 16 carefully we notice that the writer suddenly shifts from third person plural to first person plural, indicating that Luke has joined the group as they journey to Philippi. Barclay suggests that the presence of Luke the physician may indicate that the “thorn in Paul’s side” needs attention.
Luke’s gospel presents a very favorable views of women; it is he who reveals that the Woman at the Well was the first person to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. Luke’s presence may explain why the writer includes the encounter with Lydia.
As an eyewitness, Luke provides an accurate report about these praying women.
When entering a new city, Paul usually went to the synagogue and began trying to convert Jews to Christianity. Philippi is a Roman colony, named for Phillip, father of Alexander the Great who had said his aim was “to marry the east to the west” and so make one world.
The conversion of Lydia, the first European, began to achieve not Alexander’s dream but God’s vision of one world for Christ. There being no synagogue, believers often gathered for prayer near a river bank and so Paul and his friends went to a nearby riverbank to pray.
There they met Lydia, the head of her household, a business woman who sold purple cloth, a luxury item for the wealthy. The purple dye had to be collected drop by drop from a certain shellfish and was very costly. Her contacts will allow her to spread the Word among prominent members of society.
When Lydia joined the church her entire household joined with her. The same was the case with Cornelius after his conversion. David Hearst Thomas reports that when the mico or ciaque on St. Catherines Island were baptized their followers joined.
Are you a leader in your household, setting an example that its members will wish to follow? How can you be a better follower of Christ in your home? In Acts 1:8, Jesus tells the disciples to be His witness in Jerusalem, to begin where they are. Men and women must witness in our homes, our Jerusalem.
Lydia offers hospitality, one of the traditional roles for women. For many years women’s roles were limited to hospitality and financial support. The W.S.C.S. was often given the label “We Serve Church Suppers,” and attendees at Quarterly Conferences, Wednesday night suppers, and cluster meetings can attest to their gracious hospitality.
Long before women could be ordained they were the faithful Directors of Christian Education and Sunday school teachers.
Today ordained females fill many of the pulpits in South Georgia and provide leadership at all levels of the Church. Filled with the Holy Spirit, women serve wherever God calls.
Lydia’s offer of hospitality to Paul and his companions was not only greatly appreciated, but set an example for all Christians. Later, Paul would urge Christians “to be given to hospitality” (Romans 12:13).
When serving as PPR Chair in a small membership church in the early 80s I read the Question, “Would you accept a female minister?” To which the oldest member of the committee responded, “Yes, the best Sunday school teachers I ever had were women.”
Lydia’s heart and mind were open to receive the gospel.
Gracious and loving God, open our hearts and minds so that we may be empowered by the Holy Spirit and may we, like Lydia, respond to Christ’s call to leadership and service. Amen.
Dr. Charlene Rushton Black is a former Conference Lay Leader and former Conference UMW President. You may contact her at email@example.com.
A note from Dr. Black: I am humbled by the invitation to prepare Sunday school lessons to accompany the Adult Bible study series, used in every church I have attended beginning in Dexter, continuing in Jesup, Belle Meade in Nashville, Tenn.; Millen, Oak Grove in Screven County and currently at Statesboro First.
I have three unusual connections with the Series. When my family left Nashville we sold our house to Horace Weaver who was the Editor of the Series (1968). When I lived in Jesup I became acquainted with Dr. Aubrey Alsobrook. After serving Jesup First Methodist Church, he retired there and in addition to writing many books, he wrote Sunday school lessons for the Advocate. I had the privilege of not only serving on the Connectional Table with Neil Alexander, President of the United Methodist Publishing House, but Neil and I were members of a six-person sharing group that met at each meeting of the Table. We are a Connectional Church and I am most grateful for each person to whom I am connected. My father believed every UMC household should subscribe to the Advocate. At his own expense he had buttons promoting the Advocate made and my brothers Bob and Barclay and I helped him distribute them throughout North and South Ga. I was nurtured in a family that supported the Advocate and we continue to do so. I hope you will encourage everyone to take advantage of the many gifts contained in the Advocate.