Though not named among the twelve apostles of the evangelists, Barnabas emerges in the Acts of the Apostles as one of the most significant of their number. He sold his estate and gave the proceeds to the Church, since all things were to be held in common, and clearly became a leader. He is described as a Levite from Cyprus so, like his friend Paul, was from the Greek world rather than that of Palestine, and he introduced Paul to the leaders of the Church in Jerusalem. He was sent to Antioch apparently to guide the Christians there in their relations with non-Jewish converts, promoting the concept of all being one in Christ. He broke with Paul to go to Cyprus and tradition has it that he was martyred there in the year 61.
O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Bountiful God, giver of all gifts,
who poured your Spirit upon your servant Barnabas
and gave him grace to encourage others:
help us, by his example,
to be generous in our judgements
and unselfish in our service;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Blessed are those who fear the Lord
and have great delight in his commandments.
Their descendants will be mighty in the land,
a generation of the faithful that will be blest.
Wealth and riches will be in their house,
and their righteousness endures for ever.
Light shines in the darkness for the upright;
gracious and full of compassion are the righteous.
It goes well with those who are generous in lending
and order their affairs with justice,
For they will never be shaken;
the righteous will be held in everlasting remembrance.
They will not be afraid of any evil tidings;
their heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Their heart is sustained and will not fear,
until they see the downfall of their foes.
They have given freely to the poor;
their righteousness stands fast for ever;
their head will be exalted with honour.
The wicked shall see it and be angry;
they shall gnash their teeth in despair;
the desire of the wicked shall perish.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they spoke the word to no one except Jews. But among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists also, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord. News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they associated with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians’.
At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius. The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea; this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch … Then Barnabas went to Tarsus.
Today the Church celebrates the life and witness of Barnabas the Apostle. We know from the Acts of the Apostles that Barnabas followed the teachings of Jesus and sacrificed his worldly wealth in order that the proceeds might be used to support the poor and needy. In today’s reading we also hear of his willingness to join the Twelve in responding joyously and unquestioningly to Christ’s call to follow, even to the point of giving his life as a martyr.
The story of Barnabas is an inspiring one, even if we do struggle with understanding and emulating his actions. Like Barnabas we are called to follow Christ. We are called to sacrifice the excess with which we surround ourselves and, in living the simpler life, to go wherever the wind of the Holy Spirit might lead us. But, despite knowing all this to be true, we do not journey in strange places in the Lord’s name. Instead we settle in comfortable enclaves, surrounded by the familiar, and rarely devoting ourselves to sharing the joy of the Gospel message.
Barnabas gave up his whole way of life in response to God’s call. As we hear in today’s reading Barnabas’ response to that call was complete in its willingness to be self-sacrificial. The leaders of the early Church perceived a need and they sent Barnabas who, as far as we can tell, accepted the commissions laid upon his shoulder and travelled far and wide, spreading the Good News as he went.
Not everyone is called to travel away from their homes in response to the call to discipleship. Sometimes we are called to journey amongst the familiar, sharing Christ’s love in a spirit of humble service. Sometimes we are called to use our familiarity with the community in which we live as a strength that gives the Christian message power and relevance.
Whether God is calling us to travel in the alien and the unknown, or whether he is calling us to travel only the streets that we know so well, we can be sure that God is calling us. The question is: ‘How are we going to respond to that call?’ Are we going to join Barnabas in taking whatever steps we are being asked to take in God’s name, or are we going to experience a prolonged bout of selective deafness … the deafness that is rooted in self-interest, greed and fear?
Let us pray that we may be worthy of the name ‘Christian’. Let us pray that we might be prepared to sacrifice the unnecessary and the excess that fills our lives. Let us pray that we might be ever ready to tread the path Christ has prepared for us. Let us pray that we might always be faithful, loyal and true disciples of our risen and ascended Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Prayers of intercession
For the unity of all the faithful let us pray to the Lord.
Give grace to all who own the name of Christian, that they may be one in love and in worship. Bless those at home or abroad who are called to be missionaries and teachers of the faith.
As Barnabas, son of consolation, brought mutual trust among the Apostles, may the spirit of reconciliation prevail wherever there is hostility between races and nations. Teach the people of this world to know that they are all the children of God.
Grant to us the spirit of generosity, in giving of time and money to those in need. Bless and draw into fellowship any in our community who are kept apart by suspicion and ignorance of one another.
We pray for all who are lonely and withdrawn into themselves, unable to reach out with the hand of fellowship to others. We pray too for all travellers in places of danger.
Receive the souls of those who, having loved well in this world, have been lifted into the perfect love of heaven. Grant them a share in the joy of blessed Barnabas and all the saints.
We pray through Jesus Christ, whose Gospel was proclaimed by the Apostles.
Prayer for the week
by whose grace alone we have been accepted
and called to your service:
strengthen and guide us by your Holy Spirit in all our work
and make us worthy of our calling;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.