By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
“On the Sabbath, we left the city and went down along the river where we had heard there was to be a prayer meeting. We took our place with the women who had gathered there and talked with them. One woman, Lydia, was from Thyatira and a dealer in expensive textiles, known to be a God-fearing woman. As she listened with intensity to what was being said, the Master gave her a trusting heart—and she believed!” Acts 16:13-14 (The Message)
In the movie “The Lion King,” Simba, heir to the throne of his father, King Mufasa, flees from his homeland when his father is murdered by his uncle, Scar.
In the safety of the jungle, Simba meets and joins up with two characters, Timon and Pumba. Their philosophy of life was described in the phrase “Hakuna Matata,” which means “no worries.” Simba adopts this laidback, play-it-safe attitude and enjoys the life of no worries—but also of no responsibilities. Meanwhile, under the dictatorship of Simba’s wicked uncle, his homeland falls to ruin, famine and despair. Then one day, the baboon Rafiki, the “holy man,” tracks Simba down and offers to take him to a place where he will meet his dead father. Intrigued, the young lion follows Rafiki through the twisted roots of ancient trails until he reaches a clearing. There, in the clear night sky, Simba remembers his roots. He has a moving vision of his father, who laments, “You have forgotten who you are, and therefore, you have forgotten me.”
It is in this place that Simba remembers who he is. He is Mufasa’s boy, the son of the king, and he returns to his homeland to liberate his people and take his rightful place as their king. He remembers, and all are thankful.
Recently, I was privileged to travel with a delegation of 18 persons from South Carolina to Greece. We shared together a pilgrimage following the journeys of Paul. While on our visit, I can say without a doubt that it was an awesome, inspirational and uplifting time. Every day brought new insights to our appreciation of Scripture. Each site we visited was filled with its own understanding and application for my faith.
Yet no site was more inspiring and motivating than our visit to Philippi, where Lydia was baptized by the Apostle Paul and recognized as the first Christian convert on European soil. It was there at this site that our South Carolina group reaffirmed our baptism. It was an opportunity to remember our baptism and be thankful, a time to remember that having been born through water and the Spirit, the Holy Spirit will help us live as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. To more deeply discover our baptismal vow together as a community.
With one voice, as a community surrendered to Jesus Christ, we reaffirmed our rejection of sin and promised to nurture one another in faith.
I’ve discovered over the years that we have developed a bad habit. Often we look but do not see, and hear but seldom listen. In these days when life is lived at such a fast pace and our days are spent clock-watching and schedule-keeping, I believe we seldom have time to think and ponder.
One of my favorite hymns is “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” which was written by Robert Robinson. In the hymn lyrics, there is a line that always captures my attention and forces me into a time of remembrance and introspection. The line says, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” Preoccupied and busy with other things, we find ourselves distracted and drifting instead of having a heart and mind focused on the Savior who loves us and gave Himself for us.
I have found that to know what really matters in life is to eliminate all the things that distract you from what really matters. Even though our minds are filled with other thoughts, preoccupied with schedules and not always thinking about heavenly things, the Easter message reminds us that what we do with our lives matters to Jesus.
This was the message shared with Lydia. She believed and was baptized.
We have heard the message before. May we, too, remember our baptism and be thankful.
By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston