Links of Interest/Bibliography:
Hymn Come and Find the Quiet Centre VU 374
Words of Welcome and Announcements
Centering and Candle Lighting
Hymn We Are One VU 402
Call to Worship
Welcome to this sacred space. May this be a time of recognizing The Holy resting in each other and ourselves. We have gathered to celebrate all that is Holy, to celebrate all that we have accomplished together, and to generate excitement for all that is to come.
Prayer of Approach
Enliven this gathering. Open our minds and our hearts to passionate justice, grace-filled action and endless love. Amen.
Hymn Spirit, Open My Heart MV 79
What does ‘Sacred’ mean?
The Word: Acts 16:9–15
Anthem – there is one and I forget the name.
Creating the Sacred
Hymn Shall We Gather at the River? VU 720
Minute for Mission
We have abundance. We are called to share what we can so that we can continue to work towards the kin-dom.
Offering Christ Has No Body Now But Yours MV 171
Offertory What Does The Lord Require of You? VU 701
Bless these gifts and those given through PAR. May they inspire honest conversation, open minds, and actions filled with peace and justice.
Prayer Music Jesus, You Fill Our Hearts MV 101
Prayers of the People & Prayer of Jesus
Commissioning and Benediction
Musical Blessing Amen MV 225
Creating a Sacred Space
Background for this particular community
The setting for Paul
Paul and his followers on the road
Paul and his followers have left their community. They are actively recruiting for their new way of life. Because the Christian community is so new, they don’t always have a hosting community. They don’t always have a place to worship when Sunday comes around.
Somewhat hostile environment
Paul and his companions are in a somewhat hostile environment. They lived in a time where being different was potentially a life or death situation. They lived it a time where there were so many threats to existence that people needed community to survive.
The setting for Lydia
Lydia was a rich woman, a rarity it the patriarchal society. She was a dealer in purple cloth, a career that would have likely had rocky beginnings, as making purple cloth was not exactly an ideal career. Making purple cloth at the time involved soaking the material in urine, something that would have made the person “unclean”. Lydia though, was the dealer and not in the purple cloth production. That meant she was the person who dealt with the wealthy people who purchased the purple cloth.
Head of her household
We know that Lydia was the head of her household. I suspect that she was somewhat charismatic, as this would not have been a title that some servants and many of her neighbours would have made difficult. But faithful servants and family members who respected her would have given Lydia a special influence.
On the fringes of the Hebrew community
Lydia wasn’t exactly Hebrew when she met Paul. She had been spending time with a particular Hebrew community, but it was not a community that she had been born into.
The setting for the contemporary house church
People looking for something different
A house church is a small group of people who gather regularly for spiritual purposes. Lydia’s group of friends and family was a house church. House churches have always existed, but seem to be making a comeback these past few years. People are attracted to the unique opportunities that house churches provide. People looking to create a house church are looking for an intimate connection with a group of people. The relationships are the sacred in a house church, along with an opportunity to share openly and acceptance for the person as a whole. People seeking a house church are looking for to embrace diversity.
People looking to leave behind red tape
Many people who seek out a house church are looking for something a little less formal, where red tape and rules don’t overshadow the needs of the members. People who belong to a house church aren’t looking for a cookie-cutter experience, they’re looking for meaningful relationships.
People looking to create the sacred
Rather than having traditions once considered sacred dictate the parameters of their relationships, people seeking a house church are looking for meaningful actions, ancient and new, to outline how they celebrate the sacred. People are looking identify what is sacred to them, rather than being told what is sacred.
Lydia’s Role in Creating the Sacred
As a business owner
The purple cloth
Being a wealthy business woman gave Lydia the privilege to be a trend setter. Not only did Lydia have an inside track to the minds of the servants and family in her household, but she also would have had some sway with the community…like Devil wears Prada, but the boss is nicer.
Being able to afford her own home
Lydia’s home also helped her influence. Without having a place to host such a gathering, they would have needed to convert someone else before being able to host a potential gathering. Being the owner of her home, Lydia did not need to seek permission from anyone or any group in order to worship.
As a hostess
Making people feel comfortable
As a hostess, Lydia’s hospitality was crucial to the success of the newly formed community. Lydia would have needed to have made each person feel like they were coming home, like they were important, like they belonged to the community. She would have needed to have some small boundaries in place to establish respect for her home.
Diversity in the community
Lydia would have needed to welcome diversity, yet nurture a common goal or longing. And if Lydia was really following The Way, she would have welcomed people into her home that normally, according to the social standards of the time, wouldn’t have been allowed to enter.
The importance of the sacred to Lydia’s community
Creating ritual creates community
Ritual as framework
The sacred rituals provided Lydia and the community framework to hold themselves accountable to each other and to living out the radical hospitality and abundant love that Jesus taught. The open communion table, grace-filled baptism, and sacred prayers to celebrate love provided the parameters or lack of parameters for this community. No matter how broken you were, you were still welcomed with love and acceptance.
Common experience builds bonds
This common experience of vulnerability and grace received helped the community to build strong bonds. Did they stumble? Of course they did. It’s quite likely that at least one of the letters Paul wrote was addressed to this community. But a few reminders from Paul about the common experience of all the followers of love and grace and their commitment to extend that same life changing experience to anyone who seeks it.
Allowing room to grow
When people feel welcomed and at home
The framework of acceptance practiced by the Christian community has continued to allow the communities to grow. Over the years communities have slipped from time to time, but I have hope that eventually they will remember the call to unconditional love and acceptance. When people feel welcomed and at home, they reciprocate creating a cycle of love and acceptance, hospitality and belonging.
When what they do feels meaningful
People stay in community when they feel not only welcomed and accepted, but when what they are doing feels meaningful, including what is held as sacred.
What is sacred in our community?
What does the United Church of Canada hold as sacred?
What can we let go of? What is no longer meaningful?
What do we need to look at with new eyes?