Wednesday, 3 August 2011

I will wear purple - In memory of Lydia

August 3rd is the feast of Lydia. She rates as one of my all time favourite saints, although not much is known about her. Just a short passage from Acts of the Apostles in fact. St. Paul, travelling on his journey's came to Philippi, which is now in Greece. I guess St. Paul and his crew must have looked quite a sight and a state when they arrived in town, what with all that sandal wearing itinerant life style. I am not sure there were that many hot showers to be had. I bet they were an icky, sticky, stinky mess. Anyhow, here's Lydia's story - told, as usual, from the male perspective of the scripture authors.

On the sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshipper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to God's message. When she and the members of her household were baptised, she invited us to her home. "If you consider me a believer in the Lord," she said, 'Come and stay at my house." And she persuaded us. (Acts 16: 11-15)
Persuaded, did she? I am sure she had that team of preachers umming and ahhing for ages, (not). A woman who sold purple might have been quite wealthy. The colour was rare and associated with royalty. But, the passage does not say that she owned the cloth or the business. She might have been a common labourer, who dyed the material in her home. Either way, she offers hospitality to Paul and his companions. And, I bet they were a hungry, sweaty lot that needed a good bath and a big meal. Hospitality is THE virtue I think is most important. Just to have a knack of making people feel comfortable, predicting their needs and providing for them without fuss and nonsense. THIS is the essence of the Christian life for me. And I love that I can see this woman wearing purple. It reminds me of that well known and beautiful poem: Warning - When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple. 

Well, here's a warning for you guys. I already wear purple. And, for me, it is a symbol of the hospitality, goodness and service offered by Lydia to her guests. When I am old, I will still wear purple. And, I will definitely spend my money on brandy and satin candles, and say we have no cash for butter. I practise that sort of thing daily. My most sincere hope, however, is that I will still have the heart to offer every wanderer that comes my way that generous hospitality that feeds the heart and soul of both the host and the guest.

When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple
with a red hat that doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
and satin candles, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired
and gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
and run my stick along the public railings
and make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
and pick the flowers in other people's gardens
and learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
and eat three pounds of sausages at a go
or only bread and pickles for a week
and hoard pens and pencils and beer nuts and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
and pay our rent and not swear in the street
and set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple

Jenny Joseph

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