This Saturday is the feast day of St Barnabas.
Barnabas was an important character in the early church. He travelled with Paul on some of his missionary journeys including to Cyprus and the two brothers in Christ worked hard together to plant and foster new churches. Paul and Barnabas will certainly have endured much hardship together, travelling and living hand to mouth while preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Sadly, the two men fell out and ceased to work together. We only have Paul’s account for their dispute, which is contained in his letters. Paul was upset that Barnabas who had been enthusiastic in advocating that followers of Jesus did not have to become Jews first to then become Christians, changed his view when challenged by Jewish Christians. Paul, of course, was a passionate believer that the new faith in Jesus was open to everyone and superseded the Jewish faith. Paul won the argument, and we live with the outcome of this every day in our Christian lives. Disputes amongst disciples are as old as the church itself!
Sometimes we can be lulled into thinking that mission is something that other people do. We can think of the remarkable men and women who took the Good News of Jesus Christ to far flung countries such as Africa and China who had never heard of Jesus, or previously missionaries such as Paul and Barnabas who worked so hard to spread the Good News throughout the Roman Empire; two passionate and devout men. If we think like this, we ignore the reality that mission is as important today in our own community as it was for Paul and Barnabas. We now live in a secular society where
many people know little about Jesus, the Bible, or our Christian faith.
I would like everyone, on St Barnabas’s day, to pledge to be missionaries. To work to fulfil our church’s first two marks of mission: to proclaim the Good News of the kingdom and to teach, baptise and nurture new believers.