Lydia vs. Moses the Black

We trust everyone survived their weekend-long bout with LMW (Lent Madness Withdrawal). We realize it's tough to make it through an entire two days devoid of saintly voting. Yet congratulations are in order as you have all made it through this agonizing "wilderness" experience. The good news is that another full week of intense Lent Madness action begins right now!

Be sure to check out Maple Anglican's latest video as Archbishops John and Thomas preview the week ahead and answer some viewer mail. And if that's not enough to get your Lent Madness jets going, we invite you to watch and re-watch the FOX News story about Lent Madness that aired all over the country this weekend.

Today we encounter a Biblical saint baptized by Paul and a fourth-century Ethiopian who embodies the whole idea of "once was lost and now am found." Lydia was a strong woman in faith and determination; Moses the Black was a strong man both spiritually and physically.

Lydia (st lydia's)Lydia

Lydia is considered the first documented convert to Christianity in Europe. Yet for someone who had such a large impact on Christian history, what we know of Lydia’s story is slight. She appears only in Acts 14, praying by the river near Philippi, as Paul and Silas come by on their mission to Macedonia of preaching the gospel. Lydia listens attentively, volunteers for baptism along with her household, and insists that Paul and Silas stay at her house while they are in the neighborhood. We know Lydia was a God-fearer, a Gentile who worshipped the Jewish God but hadn’t officially converted. She lived in a town that didn’t have enough Jewish faithful to sustain a synagogue of its own, so they met outside by a river. Lydia was determined.

We know she was head of her household: Scholars differ on this, but the author of Luke and Acts never mentions a husband, and it is likely that if she had a husband, she would not have been running the business and making hospitality decisions as she did. Lydia was in charge.

We know she was prosperous. The purple dyes that she made were highly prized, [perhaps because one day it would become the official color of Lent Madness]. Used to color the textiles of royalty, the purple dye came from carnivorous sea snail mucous, and as one might imagine, the retrieval process was arduous and slow-going. (And I imagine it really irritated the snails.) So the resulting dye was incredibly expensive. The colloquialism for children of royalty was “born into purple.” Plus, given the root of her name, it is likely that she and her household moved at some point from Thyatira (located in modern Turkey) to Macedonia (in Greece), where she encountered Paul. That took money.

We know Lydia was hospitable: she welcomed Paul and Silas into her home after she heard them preach, and she provided for them out of her resources. It was out of this small beginning that the church of Philippi was born—and we later get the Letter to the Philippians. From her conversion, hospitality, providence, and generosity, on an entire continent sprung into the gospel.

Today, there is a church dedicated to Saint Lydia on the site where she was baptized, as well as several in Macedonia. She is a canonized saint in the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, with the Orthodox even titling her as “Equal to the Apostles.”

Lydia’s life of determined faithfulness resonates still through the ages, and bears fruit, even to today.

Collect for Lydia (and Dorcas and Phoebe)
Filled with your Holy Spirit, gracious God, your earliest disciples served you with the gifts each had been given: Lydia in business and stewardship, Dorcas in a life of charity and Phoebe as a deacon who served many. Inspire us today to build up your Church with our gifts in hospitality, charity and bold witness to the Gospel of Christ; who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-- Megan Castellan

Moses the Black (3)Moses the Black

Also known as Moses of Ethiopia, Moses the Black was born around 330. As a young man, he left Ethiopia for adventures in Egypt. He found himself a servant to a wealthy Egyptian landowner. Moses would surreptitiously steal from his boss, lining his pockets with the profits. When the man discovered Moses’ perfidy, he expelled him from his house.

Moses, a large and formidable man, gathered around him other bandits. Together they robbed and harassed people living in the Egyptian countryside. As he was fleeing the authorities, he took refuge among monks in Sketes, a desert community outside of Alexandria. In time, inspired by their contented piety, Moses converted to Christianity and renounced his former ways of violence and carousing. Legend has it that four robbers once assaulted his monastery. Moses stood his ground, and with his bare hands, he unarmed and tied up the would-be thieves. He brought them to the other monks and asked their advice. Moses suggested that it would not be very Christian to repay violence with violence. The bandits were so moved by the compassion of the monks that they too joined the monastery.

On another occasion, Moses was summoned to a council to pass judgment on a brother who had committed a fault. Moses refused. Urged by the priests to join the council, Moses grabbed a leaking jug of water (some say it was sand) and carried it into the meeting. Perplexed by this, the brothers asked him what he was doing. He replied that like the trail of water, his sins follow behind him but he did not see them, and yet he was being asked to judge another man. The brothers were moved by this gesture and forgave the man straightaway.

Moses ultimately became abbot of a community in the desert and was later ordained a priest. In 405, he was warned of marauding Berbers from North Africa who intended to attack his monastery. Moses sent away all but six or seven of the monks and insisted to those who stayed that they not respond to any attack with violence. “Those who live by the sword die by the sword,” he reminded his brothers. He and the monks welcomed the bandits. All of the monks, including Moses, were killed.

Early church historian Samilinius Sozomen wrote of Moses the Black that “no one else ever made such a change from evil to excellence.” Moses is a shining example of the transformative power of the gospel. He is the patron saint of nonviolence.

Collect for Moses the Black
God of transforming power and transfiguring mercy: Listen to the prayers of all who, like Abba Moses, cry to you: “O God whom we do not know, let us know you!” Draw them and all of us from unbelief to faith and from violence into your peace, through the cross of Jesus our Savior; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

-- David Creech


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196 comments on “Lydia vs. Moses the Black”

    1. I too am in awe of a life such as his was could be turned around to be the person he became. There is hope for all of us who try to put our sins behind us.

    2. Moses got my vote too. He is a shining example of how we can change to direction of our lives. In these violent times we need examples of nonviolence.

  1. I have to vote for Moses since I'm not sure that Lydia actually existed; Luke could play fast and loose with history.

      1. Somehow I don't think a Jewish guy would be playing Lent madness, unless of course he was so overcome by the hysteria and simply had to jump in.

        1. Oh, this eases the sting of my man Moses going down. Tonight, Lydia is the champ of them all.

        2. The patron saint of nonviolence is losing?? How is that possible? Someone wrote that they only vote for women (ANNA COOPER...who said that?) but when a man converts to nonviolence this is a major event in the history of, well, mankind!!! Come on MOSES!!

      2. Gotta go belatedly with Lydia because of Groucho the Great's hymn to Lydia-the-Cross-Eyed-Lady, who is probably not related. So there.

    1. Peter, There are MANY good stories in the Bible that are completely fictional or a bit "fast & loose with history". They are still good stories and examples to live by. Let's start at the beginning... was there one Adam and one Eve or is that a metaphorical story. Then there's Job...

      And here we are voting for who is going to win the "golden halo"?... Perhaps lightening up a bit would be wise...

      I voted for Moses just because he sounds like a cool guy who changed people's lives.

  2. Wow, more publicity for Lent Madness! Although LM is already "viral" by Episcopalian standards, I wonder how big LM will be two years from now. It will be difficult for Tim and Scott to be tongue-in-cheek pretentious about the impact of Lent Madness when they have thousands of fans.

  3. So hard. I totally love that Lydia "leaned in" to Christianity, but then there was Moses's message of change and nonviolence, and I had to vote for the fuller story.

  4. What an inspirational example Moses the Black presents to all of us! He was reborn and truly lived his faith.

  5. What a tough choice! Two Christians who are wonderful examples for us. I voted for Lydia because of her lasting impact on our scriptures, (and my bracket), but I am so happy to know there is a patron saint of non-violence.

    1. Is it better to start off hospitable, gracious (and wealthy), or to start off thoroughly rotten and become hospitable, etc.
      I grew up thinking less of the Older Brother than of the Prodigal Son, but I wonder...

  6. Lydia is one of the many heroes who has received little attention. Without her support, the church in Philippi would have collapsed. She is indeed the "equal to the Apostles." She and Dorcas and Phoebe were so brave and so true.

  7. Another difficult choice! Clearly, Lydia used her wealth and power to further the gospel message, and to bring in many converts. She should be a shining beacon to many in this day and age! But Moses turned his life around so completely, and is such an example for non-violence (and for forgiveness!), that I had to vote for him today!

    1. I'm with you here, very tough choice. Ultimately I went with Lydia because she birthed the church of Philippi. I wish I could vote for both.

  8. Decisions! Decisions! Tough choice whether to vote for Lydia or Moses (not as tough I believe when we vote for the Wesley brothers!). I choose Lydia because she provided a home base for Paul & his followers. Without her support I believe the spread of Xtianity would have had a much more difficult time.

  9. Admire Lydia, or anyone who was the first in their area to be's not like you have the support of a community, role models, or even a tradition to guide you through that wilderness. In order to be first, you have to be open to something new, or patiently waiting for the one real God. On the other hand...Moses. If you thought Jean Valjean in "Les Mis" was something, here's the real deal. And his call to non-violence in the face of violence is amazing. I am reflecting for Lent on physical vulnerability, and when God calls us to choose it when instinct says "protect and defend." In one situation, his non-violence led to conversion, the other martyrdom.

  10. The stained glass window on the back wall of my church is of the seaside meeting of Lydia with Paul. As I celebrate at the altar, or simply muse during a choir anthem, I see her lit by the morning sun, and am enchanted. Leadership and hospitality~ I'm voting for Lydia!

    1. I was moved by Moses' example of non-violence (and believe that he did what Jesus would do, when the Bad Guys were coming). So, I had to cancel out your vote, I'm afraid! Maybe someday I'll visit your church and see that cool window, and change my mind...

  11. A tough decision today. Both are deserving. Tim and Scott, you have given us two excellent candidates today. So sorry I had to choose. But Moses got my vote today, though Lydia sports the Pantone color of the year.

  12. I don't understand comments that suggest people in scripture are less "real" than others. Was Paul not real? How about Mary Magdalene? Moses? In my opinion, the power of these people's lives in story does not require secular documentation.

    1. Many of the characters in Bible stories were invented by the author(s) to illustrate a point. The problem is in deciding which ones were real and which were made up by the writer.

      1. Is it necessary to decide? Darth Vadar isn't "real" but he definitely points to something that is.

        1. Marylee, I agree that knowing whether a person really existed or not does not change the influence of its character on the reader. That is one way to read the scriptures, and that is just fine and good. But as one who is struggling to sift out history from literary creativity, it is important to me to try to make that distinction.

  13. Moses, for me, is a patron saint of the fight against Stand Your Ground laws. Not only did he reject violence, but when his monastery was under attack he sent everyone away instead of allowing them to fight back. Meanwhile, he and the few left with him offered a different kind kind of stand your ground as they stood firm in non-violence and hospitality.

  14. Hospitality is underrated because it is seen generally as what women do. I applaud Moses an non violence but if everyone was mor hospitable including politicians we might have many mor fruitful discussions that could stop violence before it began. Women have always been the support of the church and continue to be. My vote goes to Lydia.

    1. Thank you for your comments, Betty. They really got me thinking. I had been leaning toward Moses, as the patron saint of non-violent resistance (a more potent phrase, I think, than non-violence). But your reminder about the historic and chronic undervaluing of women's work took me aback -- not least because that's usually my line! And then you took it further to suggest the transformative potential of hospitality to short-circuit the sequence that might lead to the need for non-violence in the first place.

      Making your words even more powerful to me is today's invitation to reflect on this question, "What acts of friendship have you initiated or received this week?," from the Brothers of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, whose Lenten programming I'm following alongside Lent Madness.

      Lydia welcomed Jesus's message and disciples into her heart and her community, and she thrived. Moses and his fellows "welcomed the bandits" and were murdered anyway. The consequences of a choice don't always indicate its righteousness.

      Now I clearly need more time to settle into this choice and its implications.

      1. Thank you Betty and KEW for your comments. My slam dunk for Moses has turned into a little time on the bench for continued reflection on these two admirable candidates.

      2. Thanks for your thoughts about Lydia and her expression of hospitality. My dear mother in law died a few days ago. She was a true example of hospitality, both in opening her home and her heart. So, to honor her, I cast my vote for Lydia.

    2. Thank you Betty. I reread Paul's letter to the Phillipians. That ancient church is proof of the power of hospitality! I'm voting for Lydia.

  15. Moses joke here, please bear with me.. . DeMille is filming the 10 commandments. Because he has only one chance to get it right, he has 3 cameras strategically placed. He shoots the scene in question. Asks the first cameraman, did you get it? Guy tells him, sorry cb, didn't know I was out of film! Second cameraman? Sorry cb, didn't take the lens cap off! Third cameraman? READY WHEN YOU ARE CB!!!!! Hee hee hee hee!

  16. Although I had to go with Moses the black because of the way he turned his life around, it was a very hard choice. Lydia helped bring Christianity to Europe.

  17. Although I had to go with Moses the black because of the way he turned his life around, it was a very hard choice. Lydia helped bring Christianity to Europe.

  18. I find both these stories inspiring. I write only to appeal to my companions in LM, please, can we call him Moses the Ethiopian? "Moses the Black" would suggest that saints of color were extremely rare as if that could be their distinguishing feature. We say "Elizabeth of Hungary and Margaret of Scotland" not "Elizabeth the White and Margaret the White." They are, for convenience, identified by where they came from. Of course, they all have many other outstanding characteristics by which to be named. Moses the Non-violent or Moses the Monastic could also be appropriate.

    1. I favor "Moses the Ethiopian." Being known by whence we came is quite common, as you point out. Thank you.

        1. I originally thought maybe he was Moses the Black because of his race/color of his skin but then I read his story and thought maybe he was Moses the Black because he was such a bad guy before his conversion. Like a bandit name. It would be nice to know for sure . . .

    1. Barbara, Are you in the Email? If so, try clicking on the URL directly below the word Vote. (by Tom's name). That will take you to the Web site. Then, scroll to the bottom of the stories and you will see the vote buttons there.

  19. While I'm inspired by Lydia's apparent role in the early church, the theme I can't seem to stop encountering this Lenten season is transformation, so Moses gets my vote. His stance on non-violence is a big plus, too.

  20. "Lydia was determined." "Lydia was in charge." "Lydia was hospitable." I think I know several Lydias.

  21. The leaky pitcher story is my favorite of all the stories of the desert Abbas and Ammas, so Moses!