Household by the Water

Acts 16: 9-15

Household’s are mostly busy places. Managing the too -ings and fro -ings of everyone in the household, keeping the finances, mowing the lawns, feeding everyone, getting to church.  The tasks are many. In the midst of all the busyness the maintenance of relationships and of one’s well being can be skimped on, even with the best of intentions.  In the Acts narrative today, Lydia and her household; which would have included her staff, were taking time to pray by the river. How many households in our highly scheduled lifestyle today take quality time out to meditate, or pray, or smell the flowers, to spend time simply being together?

It was out of the maintenance of their spiritual and emotional life that Lydia and her household were able to hear Paul’s gospel reflection and then act on it in the form of hospitality and generosity. The pursuit of the riches that society tells them are worth pursuing can become all consuming and households miss out on quality time. One of the most interesting facets of Lydia’s story is that she was clearly a successful business woman – and yet here she is – by the river – with her household – going down to the river to pray, to paraphrase an old folk song.

Household is a large word. It isn’t just reserved for nuclear families. We can use it to describe a whole community. A congregation. The household of God,

Today we have shared the ritual of baptism with water with this little household that have been made welcome and looked after by a larger household and born out of that we see the very enacting of gospel values of hospitality and welcome.

We can comprehend such values in terms of our nearest and dearest, and in such contexts as congregations and local communities. Such values are challenging when applied to a nation. Such values are challenging when applied to other living creatures – and to the planet. The household of earth suffers when we don’t pay attention to the myriad of households within, when we don’t pay attention to the spirit of generosity and welcome to the very life we share with all life.

The setting of the river for Lydia’s narrative is highly symbolic. The water of life is a significant motif throughout the biblical literature. The waters of Babylon, the waters of the Jordan, the waters from the rock in the desert, the shepherd leading by the quiet waters, water as the life force for the Spirit. Water is literally the life force for the planet and the creatures that live on it. Water is the life force full stop. Water appears in countless religious rituals in all the major world religions. For Christians, the waters of baptism acknowledge the gift of Grace.

What would it look like to be hospitable and generous to our rivers, our seas, our lakes?

What would it look like to pay attention to the maintenance of relationships in all the types of  households I have mentioned?

It might look a lot like what we have done today – with Roy and Saebom – Dean and Sun who have come a long way from home to make a new home.  Welcome – we the household of faith in this place, welcome you and the grace you bring in the name of Jesus the Christ.

Back in 2013 when I returned to Rangi Ruru from my first volunteer stint on Iona, unbeknownst to me the school had prepared a song to sing to me – it was Dave Dobbyn’s Welcome Home – a song I would moot as a new National Anthem but that’s another story.

As the household that is NZ welcomes new people, as the household that is the church welcomes children and adults into the household of faith, so too this song welcomes all who come to our shore to make of this their home.

Dave Dobbyn’s song: Welcome Home (first verse)

I am feeling for you
Under the state of a strange land
You have sacrificed much to be here
There but for grace as I offer my hand
Welcome home, I bid you welcome, I bid you welcome
Welcome home from the bottom of my heart
Welcome home, see I made a space for you now
Welcome home from the bottom of our hearts
From the bottom of our hearts

 

Haere mai.