Reflection for Ascensiontide 2021

A study for Ascensiontide  – Acts 16.11-15, 40

“11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis.

“12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.

“13 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. 

“14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.

“15 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.  …

“40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.”

Giovanni Bernardone and the Presence of Jesus

Around about 1200AD, a young man left his home behind and began to wonder the hills of Tuscany, in Italy.  He came from a wealthy family, but gave away all his inheritance.    Along the road, he gave away his clothes; and then, sneaking into a field, he stole the ragged cloak and rope from off a scarecrow, and wrapped them around himself.

This was to be his trademark.  Whatever he received, he gave away, and whoever he met, he embraced with an infectious joy and an irrepressible charisma – a powerful presence.  This was the presence of Jesus inside him.

We know him now by the nickname his mates gave him – Francis (of Assisi)

What was it about Paul that broke through to Lydia?

Perhaps he operated like a door-to-door salesman with an incredible patter, and she was persuaded.

Maybe, as an educated man, Paul was able to offer well-constructed logical arguments for believing in Jesus, and she was really impressed by his intellectual ability.

I’m sure Lydia saw something inside him, which was irresistible. He hadn’t brought a convincing presentation; it was the presence of Jesus that melted her.  In the telling Luke has to use  an unusual phrase: “The Lord opened her heart…”

What is it that opens our Hearts

In the 1860s,  a wealthy man called Edward Studd, returned from India to England.  He had earned his fortune as an owner of indigo plantations.  He had three boys who were all sent to Public School at Eton, and then went up to Cambridge University.  All became exceptional cricket players, and the middle one, Charles, or CT as he was nicknamed, went on to captain the England cricket team.   Three  were set for a life of ease and celebrity.

In 1884, one of the brothers, George, became gravely ill.  CT became very anxious about him, and was constantly by his side – expecting the worst.  George slowly recovered, and that same year CT surrendered his life to Jesus.  He left cricket and resolved to tell people in other countries about the power of the Lord.  Studd left society life, gave away his inheritance and moved first to China, and then Africa.  People asked him why anyone in their right mind would give up so much. He answered:

“What is all the fame and flattery worth…when a man comes to face eternity?“ C.T. Studd

C.T. Studd’s life hadn’t been taken over by religion, nor church going; neither was it an intellectual acceptance of a creed.  His heart had been melted by the presence of a Saviour who loved him.

Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.