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Acts 16.9-15John 14.23-29

I wonder how many of you have seen Shrek? The scary, big, green, cranky ogre who hates anyone coming near his swamp. “What are you doing in my swamp!” he yells, “Go away!”Like many ogres in the stories, if you stand your ground and a start talking you’ll discover a gentle, kind, and approachable side.

Our calling to be people of Good News and tellers of Good News can seem to be a large and threatening calling. We look out of our front doors and the sheer numbers of people in the neighbourhood can overwhelm us. I often drive around my neighbourhood noticing the people at the bus stop, the mums with prams, the man with the crutches, the lady in a veil, the twenty or so faces at each bus stop, both sides of the road, and I wonder how the Gospel of Jesus can touch these peoples’ lives.I don’t even know them. How can I get to know so many? How can the church engage with so many?

Our calling to be God’s hands and feet and voice in our communities can feel overwhelming and impossible. This is why our reading in Acts today was so encouraging.It’s all about God, not about me or the others in the church.God speaks to Paul about going to Macedonia, which for me perhaps means those people whose faces I see, with whom I never come into personal contact. When Paul gets to Philippi in Macedonia he goes to a place of prayer and there meets a person prepared by God to receive the Good News who becomes the key person for the Gospel in that town.

The phrase that struck me was, “The Lord opened her heart…” The Lord spoke to Paul in a vision, the Lord opens Lydia’s heart and she and her household are baptised. Wouldn’t we all want that to happen right where we are?

I pray for that to happen where I am.I pray for people who represent the various Macedonias of my community to come to faith in Jesus Christ through the witness of someone from our church.

I’m encouraged, and the weight of responsibility taken off me, by the clear evidence in our reading that God is personally at work with Paul and his team in this work of evangelism; this work of sharing faith, to which we are all called as the church, the body of Christ.God is there working away doing the things only God can do. God ensures that Paul goes to the right place, Philippi in Macedonia, God connects Paul and Lydia and God open’s her heart to listen and to respond.

What did Paul have to do? Paul had to recognise the vision as being from God.He then acted on it, he went to Philippi, a Roman Colony in Macedonia. What did he do when he got there? He went to find the place where local worshippers of God (Jews?) prayed. Then he got chatting, he talked about his faith in Jesus God’s Son.The combination of his conversation and God’s direct opening of Lydia’s heart to Paul’s story lead to an entire household being baptised.

I imagine us, the Christians of our town or village, being alert to the opportunities God may open to us as we spend time with the people in our place, with whom we work, at home, at play. That we may be aware when those opportunities call for words of witness or testimony about Jesus Christ and what he means to us.

Let us pray for such opportunities and courage and freedom to use them in collaboration with our Lord.