Julieann from St Barnabas Church, part of our North East Worcester Cluster family, writes:
Some think the Book of the Acts of the Apostles a bit hard going. The rise of the early church brings pressures and challenges as we read and consider the detail of the travels and the speeches and all those miracles which don’t seem to happen to the church today. And as preachers dare to exhort the congregation to‘go and do likewise…or expect likewise’ …maybe could be seen as idealising things…,not quite remembering that we are in the 21st century now – rather than the 1st.
But what hasn’t changed are the real human issues in building the church. We find here pressures between the apostles – the best way to do things – relationships – how we understand what God wants – who is a true believer – how the good news is spread – how to live – what the church should look like. So when we hear folk say: we need to get back to the early church- simple – it’s not about the building – well even though it is about the work of Jesus Christ that knows no bounds, and is so very exciting – I wouldn’t say we would find the work of being church and of being a Christian any clearer or easier to get back to the Early Church way of doing things. But we can learn some attitudes and approaches which the apostles and Early Church seemed to employ in order to grow the church. Whether we shall get the same results of thousands being added or miracles happen is another story and anyway, that’s God’s business – not ours.
Also, I would say that each era of church is given what the church calls “the needful gifts of grace” in order to keep alive and well…or the latest phrase – healthy and sustainable.
Now I’m not going to preach anything new about Barnabas today: but he is our Patron – he is our hero of the faith. We celebrate his way of doing things, his attitudes towards others. And what seemed to be important to him, is important to those who see this church as their own – whether they come here regularly or not.
So, yes, Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith – and I see before me all of you – also good people, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.
Yes, Barnabas was known as the encourager – someone who inspired courage in others – someone able to tell the deeply complex and disillusioned Paul to get up, dust himself down and face up to his call. It couldn’t have been an easy conversation between them – but Barnabas prevailed. I wonder if we know anyone who is disillusioned but needs to be encouraged to get on with their call – their life – their work?
You see…. and this is what makes Barnabas a force to be reckoned with….
He did not want to work alone – he recognised he needed a partner, knew the person for the job and went out and got him….even if at the time the man for the job didn’t really feel like it.
Barnabas was sent to preach the good news to the Gentiles – the ‘foreigners’ – those of a different culture and emphasis in life.
Barnabas had to negotiate around the attitudes and powers of Empire in order for his message to be accepted and received – speaking truth to power – risking his reputation.
Barnabas was therefore creative in his presentation of the Gospel in order for it to be understood – you see, he knew that all are welcome….but at the time, not everyone thought so….or they had to jump through many hoops (like circumcision) in order to belong.
In all these things Barnabas had to plough new ground – bring down some barriers – work with the strength and pain of disillusionment – accept a new way of doing things…with no instruction manual except to do it. He was a pioneer.
So, from this church then , St Barnabas, like a fount of living water – will be found a people and a place like Barnabas – a people and a place who may well, at this time of being church; in the present national church climate of rationed resources and post pandemic lockdown being called to find its partners, plough new ground and deepen its welcome to all.
If this is the case – we certainly do need the ‘needful gifts of grace’ from God – the one who longs to give to those who will receive.
Happy St Barnabas Day
Revd Julieann Watson
June 11th 2021