1 Church Street
East Harwich, MA 02645
Sixth Sunday of Easter
[Using the hymn “Shall We Gather at the River,” offer the following call to worship as directed. You will want to have a rehearsal for each part, prior to the worship service. If you have people who can play percussion instruments such as drums, tambourines, maracas, etc., it would be fun to use them during the singing of each verse. Let the atmosphere for this call to worship be joyful.]
L: Come, one and all. Gather together! For this is the day of the Lord!
P: Let’s gather at the river by the throne of God! For there is a blessing forever!
Choir (entering and processing, if able) sings Verse 1 of “Shall We Gather at the River”
L: From the throne of God flows a mighty river of peace and hope for all God’s people!
P: And there shall be rejoicing at the sight of the healing waters!
Choir: singing verse 3 of “Shall We Gather at the River”
L: Our journey brings us to God’s wondrous river of Life!
P: Praise be to God who has drawn us from darkness and filled our world with light.
All: singing verse 4 of “Shall We Gather at the River”
Call to Worship #3:
L: May God be gracious to us and bless us.
P: May God’s face shine upon us and bring us peace!
L: Let all people praise you, O Lord.
P: Let all people shout their joy to your holy name.
L: God blesses us continually throughout all our lives.
P: Thanks be to God, for God’s eternal love and blessing. AMEN.
Words of Assurance:
Let the light of God’s eternal love flood into your hearts this day. Feel the healing presence of God in your lives. Accept God’s love and hope for you. This is the gift freely given for you by Jesus Christ, God’s risen Son our Lord. AMEN.
Lord, we can only imagine the scene painted for us in Revelation in which we are given a glimpse of eternity. The light of your love pours over all the land, bathing it in healing warmth and hope. We have gathered on this day to celebrate the gift of Jesus Christ. He said to the disciples “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Do not be afraid”. How many times we are troubled and fearful. We feel hopeless in the face of an uncertain future. Help us to place our trust in your love. Open our hearts to see the wonder of your eternity. Release us from our anger, loneliness, and despair. Bring us to the realization that in your love we may find peace and joy. For it is in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, that we offer this prayer. AMEN.
Beloved of God, go to be a blessing. Bring the good news of forgiveness and healing to this hurting, lonely world. Bring hope to all, for God’s love is poured out for all God’s people.AMEN.
John 14:23-29 NRSV Updated Edition
23 Jesus answered him, “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. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words, and the word that you hear is not mine but is from the Father who sent me.
25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate,[a] the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur you may believe.
Acts 16:9-15 New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
9 During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.
The Conversion of Lydia
11 We therefore[a] set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 13 On the Sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed[b] there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. 14 A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15 When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.
Revelation 21:10 NRSV Updated Edition
10 And in the spirit[a] he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.
22 I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25 Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
The River of Life
22 Then the angel[a] showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life[b] with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; 4 they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
The Color Purple
Revelation 21:1-10, 22–22:5
22 May 2022
The Rev Dr. Dianne ES Carpenter
In the reading from Acts this morning we hear about the meeting between Paul and a woman called Lydia in the city of Phillippi. Lydia was a dealer in purple cloth. Now, usually, I prefer modern translations of the bible, but in the old authorized version, sticking closely to the Greek, it says that she’s “a seller of purple.” Just that: A seller of purple.
What does purple mean to you? What does it say? How many of you are tempted to join the red hat society? Maybe purple makes you think of the first line from the poem by Jenny Joseph-“when I am an old woman I shall wear purple, with a red hat, which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.” Purple is a dramatic color, an outrageous color. A bit over the top.
It’s not a color you can ignore, purple.
The cost of purple
These days we’re used to being able to get any color we want. Recently I was in Home Depot buying yellow paint for the kitchen…. But the lady beside me had a bedspread from the Christmas tree shop with her and the man mixing the paint added a little of this and a little of that and soon he had the exact color of greenish blueish that was in the pattern of the bedspread.
It did not use to be like that. Dyes were natural, not synthetic, and the dye for purple was made from a juice found in minute quantities in shellfish. It took thousands of crustaceans to make a yard or two of purple cloth. So it was very expensive, “worth its weight in silver” it was said. It was a statement of status and wealth, the Gucci handbag, or the Rolex watch of Roman times.
And that’s what Lydia was selling. She’s selling purple: purple cloth, purple robes, the power of purple. She’s not local. She’s from Thyatira, a town well known for making purple cloth. She seems to be the head of her household with a reference to her servants etc, there’s no husband around, even though she’s a traveling trader. And if she’s a seller of purple, she’s not poor, because she couldn’t have afforded her stock.
She’s not Jewish, but she believes in God. She’s what the Jews knew as a “God-fearer”-someone who worships in the synagogue but hasn’t converted completely to Judaism.
But to have a synagogue you need 10 men who will meet together to say prayers. Phillippi, it seems, doesn’t have a synagogue. If there’s no synagogue, then any Jews that happened to be in the town or passing through know to meet near the river on the Sabbath to pray. That’s where Lydia goes, and it’s where Paula and Silas go also.
So here is this rich, confident woman, meeting Paul for the first time.
It had all started so well. Paul and Barnabas had traveled through Asia, founding churches and setting people on fire for the gospel. But they had come back to a less than enthusiastic welcome from the Jerusalem church, who wanted to know why they were baptizing gentiles.
Paul felt the spirit had forbidden Silas and him to go back to Asia. Whenever he tries to go he feels he is rebuffed, until finally he is called in a dream to Macedonia. He goes to Philippi, on the outer fringe of the Jewish people, where he finds no synagogue where he could preach the gospel; so he goes to the river probably looking for Jewish leaders and finds ‘only’ women.
There he meets Lydia. Lydia has had her heart opened by the Holy Spirit so that she can hear the message of God. Remember this verse: “the Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul.”
Have you ever had experiences that change your life forever? Special people and special times. It is excruciatingly difficult, sometimes, to talk to people about their faith. We get tongue-tied, we feel foolish, and we feel that no one could possibly be convinced by what we have to say. And that’s quite right, they can’t. But they can have their hearts opened by the spirit, just waiting for Christians to put into words, or better still into actions, the meaning of their faith in Jesus. We don’t have to convert people, the spirit does that. All we have to do is speak honestly and openly about what faith means for us.
So Paul, who seemed at this time to be on a mission that was going nowhere, meets the woman who will be the linchpin of the church in Philippi. Other churches give him nothing but grief, the Philippians are a constant source of support for him, financial as well as spiritual. His letter to them is one of the warmest of the epistles. He’s found a church in what seemed an unlikely place, and it’s been one of his success stories.
Listening to the Spirit
And it happened because he listened to the Spirit, heard and obeyed when the Spirit said “no”, went where the Spirit called him and met Lydia the seller of purple, whose heart the Spirit had opened.
Sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes, there’s a reason why things don’t seem to go right. The house sale that falls through. The job offer that doesn’t come. Sometimes it’s just is what it is, and we have to cope and try again. But sometimes it seems that it really is God’s providence; that God has a plan for us, and is just waiting for us to see it, listen to the voice of the Spirit, and follow. The Church is all about listening to the voice of the Spirit leading us on to our next “world-changing” mission as well as our personal direction.
Lydia, the seller of purple. Is this just a story of Lydia and Paul, or is it more?
The book of acts is a journey, a journey of the gospel from Jerusalem to Asia and then on to Rome. And here, near the middle of the story, as Paul leaves Asia for the first time, he meets Lydia the seller of purple.
Purple wasn’t just an indicator of wealth. It was a symbol of political power. The more important you were as a Roman senator, the more purple decoration you had on your tunic and your toga. The emperor, and only the emperor, would wear a toga made entirely of purple cloth. Purple was the color of the Roman elite.
And here, as the message of the gospel crosses the Aegean and moves toward the heart of the Greco-Roman world, here the imperial purple and the message of the kingdom meet.
But they don’t meet on a battlefield, they don’t meet in a trial of strength-for example: my God is more powerful than your God. How can a faith that is based on a God who humbled himself to be a man, who was prepared to die for humanity because he loved us so much, who was prepared to submit to torture and degradation and humiliation, how can a faith like that truly be spread by power politics and strength of arms?
No, the battle between Roman power and the message of the gospel meets in the heart of a woman. A woman who sold luxury goods to the elite and the powerful, but who knew there was something more to life. A woman whose heart was prepared by the Holy Spirit to hear the call of Jesus, and to follow him. Have you been called to use your gifts to follow Jesus into the future?