The scripture reading today is Acts 11:22 (NRSV).
“News of [the amazing growth of the Gentile church in Antioch – 300 miles north of Jerusalem] came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch
Happy Barnabas Day! (June 11) – An Apostle in the Middle
Pentecost—the arrival of the promised Holy Spirit to the earliest Church—was a messy affair, as we heard the tale told again two days ago. The Spirit shakes things up, and often brings unlikely partners together.
Antioch was a major city in the Roman Empire and a center for the Greek-speaking Jews who no longer lived in Judea. For the Empire, Antioch was ‘the eastern Rome’. For the disciples of Jesus, this crossroads city was ‘the cradle of Christianity’, the place where “the disciples were first called ‘Christians’” (11:26).
Barnabas was a Jewish Levite from Cyprus, the large Mediterranean island to the west of Antioch. “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (11:24). Barnabas was a missionary and a mediator. He eventually got himself caught, not just in the middle of the Jew vs. Gentile controversies, but in the middle of Peter and Paul themselves!
Inside the church today, we still find ourselves caught in the middle between the ‘frozen chosen’ vs. the new partners that the Holy Spirit is bringing us. Not often comfortable, but this is how the Spirit still pulls us into God’s promised and preferred future!
Come, Holy Spirit! Help me to see and join in the changes You are bringing. Support me when I am caught in the middle like Barnabas. Continue to bring us new partners, likely and unlikely. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Prayer Concern: The work of the Lutheran World Federation, a global communion of 148 church bodies representing 75.5 million Christians in the middle of 99 countries.