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 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.
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
Lydia vs. Moses the Black
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