Easter 6 – Acts 16:9-15
Whenever you go on vacation, there is the irresistible urge to bring home a souvenir. It could be something as simple and as inexpensive as a postcard; or it could be something more like a glass, or a paperweight, or even a t-shirt. Whatever it is that you pick up, it is meant to serve the purpose of being a momento of the occasion, something to remember the trip by.
Needless to say, the significance of that item in the gift shop and the significance of that item in your living room or office vary greatly. In the gift shop, in the spur of the moment, this item, whatever it may be, is the perfect reminder of a visit. You cannot take home the Alamo or Mount Rushmore, or the Grand Canyon or even the Royals baseball team, so you bring this trinket instead. Something that says you were there.
In your living room though, it is a completely different story; suddenly you ask yourself where you will ever put that dust collector that you found in the gift shop; what will you do with that postcard you picked up; where will you wear the t-shirt?
Suddenly the memories of that vacation, which at one point had to be savored with a sampling of the gift shop, now doesn’t seem all that memorable at all.
You still have memories of the trip, but they are now clouded by the ensuing credit card bills, the aggravation of one more thing in the house, and the reality that you are now home, and not on vacation anymore.
But of course, vacations to places near and far are just a sampling of this happening in life.
The typical school day will see students ingest large amount of knowledge, only to go home and forget it all over the summer break.
How often does one get a phone call, receive vast amounts of information, and then forget it all as soon as you hang up?
What happens? The moment is removed from our minds. In real time these were the most important details one could receive, but when the moment is over, it is just like that vacation – it happened, it was interesting, but now it is on to the next thing.
Dare we say, this even happens with the faith.
How often do we sit in Bible study, ingesting all that we can, only to forget most of it within a few hours? How often do missionaries come in and speak of the work they are doing and the challenges they face, and a month later, the name and the place are but a distant memory? And what of the sermon? How often are we convicted of our sins to the absolute core, only to go home and do the same thing that very afternoon?
You walk out the doors of the church with a skip in your step, still humming the last hymn. But when you get in the car, or reach the café; or when you get up on Monday morning; or by Friday? It is but a far distant memory.
We hear it; we can honestly say that we were paying attention; but within a day, it is but a distant memory.
We joke and laugh and attribute this to all sorts of made-up excuses; concluding that what we heard must not have been that important or really didn’t apply to us to begin with.
But you know better than that.
God’s Word does not just make an impact on us so that we can forget about it an hour later; nor does it strike us just because it speaks to someone else in the pew that morning.
That is not how the Word of the Lord works. When the Word hits our eardrums it is not meant to just rattle around and then fall out. Nor is the Word designed to entertain us for an hour and then have no impact on our daily lives.
The Word of the Lord is a sharp two edged sword, piercing to the division of bone and marrow. The Word is meant to crush us, only to bring us back to life again. The Word did not become flesh just to be forgotten after a few weeks.
But that is what Satan wants.
Satan is just fine with you hearing the Word on a regular basis. Satan is just fine with you coming and hearing missionaries speak about the work of the Holy Spirit in far off places; and apologists coming and speaking about defending the truth of the Word in the public square. Satan is even happy when you come to Bible study.
But don’t kid yourself; Satan has not had a change of heart; not by a long shot.
Satan knows it is safe for you to come and hear and study the Word, because he knows that just like those souvenirs from vacation, whatever you hear or learn, will soon find its way to a bookshelf where it will collect dust; or it will end up in a box in storage; or dare we say, it will be thrown into the trash.
What happened to that excitement? Where does the fervor and zeal go between the end of the last hymn and the time we wake up Monday morning? Why do we treat the Word of the Lord like a cheap trinket from a gift shop?
Our reading from Acts offers us a clue. Paul goes to the center of town looking for a place to pray and converse with the locals. Many hear him speak, many come into contact with him, and presumably many were baptized that day.
But one person in particular is made mention of. Lydia, who is baptized along with her household, and who then invites Paul and those who are with him to her home, where they can stay.
This detail is so minor one would consider it to be largely irrelevant, but the fact that it has been recorded for us means that something matters.
What matters, is that many heard Paul that day, many were indeed baptized; and all went along their way and are not mentioned, again except for Lydia, who invites Paul to her home.
For Lydia, and her household, the message that Paul has delivered, and the baptism that she has now received, are not just minor details; they are not just souvenirs; instead they are life altering things; things that affect the way you live your life.
And just going home on this day and getting back to whatever needed to be done was not enough; so she does not just invite Paul to come to her home; she invites her faith into her home.
That is what makes her different than all the others Paul came into contact with. They may have all gone on to live lives of faith and devotion, we do not know. What we do know, is that Lydia invited Paul, and by relation her faith into her home.
Lydia’s faith does not just reside in her heart; if it just resides in your heart you will be surrounded by a whole host of things that distract you from your faith. Lydia’s faith now also resides in her home, in her daily life. What she does, where she goes, how she plans, is now all influenced by her baptism in the name of Jesus.
What does that look like?
Well, it means modest dress, the absence of obscene music and immoral television and movies, and the inclusion of daily devotions and prayer. It means that Lydia and her household do not just keep their faith on the shelf next to the bobble-head collection from past vacations, but rather that Lydia’s faith is on display for all to see in how she lives her daily life.
That is the message Paul preaches, that the faith is not just one more t-shirt that hangs in your closet. Christ did not come into the world to die and rise just so that you can keep a postcard of it in a scrapbook. Christ came into the world so that you might have forgiveness of sins and live each day in light of that forgiveness.
Christ does not just stay here in the church waiting for you to come back next week or dare we say it next month; Christ goes home with you; He goes to the café with you; He goes to school with you; He goes to work with you. For faith in Christ is not another lost souvenir; it is instead a daily dying and rising again in Baptism; a way of life; a robe of righteousness that never goes out of style.
For Christ has indeed died for your sin of hiding your faith and of forgetting your faith, so that you may go forth and live your faith in word and deed; making your life of faith one and the same in the church, in the home, and in the world.