Acts of the Apostles 16.9-15 If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home
Revelation 21.10; 22-22.5 He showed me the holy city coming down out of heaven
John 14.23-29 A peace the world cannot give is my gift to you
‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home’ (Acts 16.15)
I wonder what you understand by the word ‘home’? I wonder if it is a place or a feeling, if it’s near or far away? Is it a place of safety and security or of anxiety and loneliness? Is it a place of hospitality and invitation or a refuge from the world and other people? It may be some or all of those things. Is your home where your heart is?
Let’s ponder ‘home’ in relation to the Gospel in which Jesus promises that, in him, God will make his home with us, and also to the fascinating figure of Lydia, whose heart is opened to the Lord, such that Christ can make his home in her life and who invites St Paul into her home.
First there is some theological work to do! That is to say, what can we say of ‘home’ in relation to the nature of God? What St John’s Gospel powerfully reveals is that God is at home in God’s own-self. God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - the Blessed Trinity, is entirely at home in itself without need or lack. There is no dissension or rivalry in this perfect relationship of love.
It is from ‘home’ in God, from the bosom of the Father, that the Eternal Word finds a home in human flesh, as one of us: Jesus Christ.
‘The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us’ (John 1.14). Jesus Christ finds a home with us and in us; literally in Nazareth, with his mother, Mary, and Joseph, and now as the glorified Lord made known in the Sacraments and scriptures.
The promise of today’s gospel reading, Jesus says, is that ‘those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them’ (John 14.23).
Lydia says to St Paul, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home’. That is an act of hospitality, she wants to hear more from Paul. She wants to know more and more about Jesus Christ, the one she has invited into her life. God will make his home with her.
Lydia’s story is a beautiful one. Lydia was clearly a successful business woman in her own right, a dealer in the very pricey purple cloth that her ‘home’ town of Thyatira was known for. She was some 400 miles away from home being in Philippi.
She was a worshipper of God, but not in a formed or coherent way. Like so many people today she had a deep awareness of God’s life and presence but had not connected that with Jesus Christ, with the Church or with the intimacy or relating to God that baptism brings.
So Lydia had sought out a place where she could pray: a river. Others gathered there too. There they would go to pray, perhaps to water gods and spirits. It sounds a bit new agey. But the impulse is one of spiritual desire and refreshment. After all, John the Baptist baptised people in a river; he baptised Jesus in that River, the Jordan.
There is something about flowing water that has a deep spiritual root. It is not out of the question that this very church built, as it is, by a river – albeit covered up now – was a pagan site before hallowed by the church and dedicated to the saint who baptised in a river. Perhaps our co-patron should be St Lydia, she who, with her whole household, was baptised in a river by which she had prayed to other gods, now finding her home with the Living God: ‘the river of the water of life’ (Revelation 22.1).
Through the Holy Spirit, St Paul instinctively knew where to go to find people who might be open to the message of eternal life in Christ that he brought, be that amongst philosophers in the Aeropagus of Athens or by this river in Philippi. And Lydia was open to hearing Paul’s preaching: ‘the Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul’. Lydia is the first documented convert in Europe – as an aside, Asia Minor and Africa has earlier converts!
Christianity is not ultimately about following a moral code, or ‘connecting with our ‘spiritual’ side by rivers or with crystals. It’s not a self-help guide with a bit of whacky God language added on. It is about union with God, through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit; it is about finding our home in the life of the Eternal God. The heart of the Eucharist is Holy Communion. Communion is about unification, participation, being at home in God.
It is that home that Lydia found. And from that discovery comes an invitation: ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home’. She echoes the powerful words of the centurion to Christ, on which we base our response to the Invitation to Holy Communion: ‘Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed’ (Matthew 8.8 and the Roman Missal).
God is at home with you and me. Jesus’ mission is to bring the fullness of God to the world and save us such that we can go where he goes, back into the loving heart of the Father.
Scripture shows consistently that God desires that we find our home in God’s love and presence. That is none other than what we call ‘eternal life’, ‘life in all its abundance’ (John 10.10). This promise is further laid out in the book of Revelation, our second reading, where renewed life and renewed creation is the home of God and mortals.
It is the work of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, who brings us to this point of Holy Communion, and bringing to remembrance (ὑπομνήσει) makes Christ present in our midst to find his home in our bodies: flesh, mind and spirit.
May we ever find our home in Christ, and he in us.