It is one week after Easter. Once again, we enter that time of year that the appointed readings in churches that follow that sort of thing have us put the Old Testament books on the shelf for a few weeks. This Sunday we read the historical narrative from the Book of Acts. Doing so introduces us to one of those lesser-known personalities in the New Testament Scriptures: a man named "Barnabas."
You can be forgiven for not knowing who Barnabas is. Though he is in danger of upstaging his more well-known "junior partner" (the apostle Paul) when the two men toured the island of Cyprus with the Gospel of Christ (Gentiles there called Paul "Hermes," but Barnabas "Zeus" [14:12]!), Barnabas is usually thought of as the guy working "behind-the-scenes" to introduce Paul to the church Paul himself had persecuted. Barnabas, however, was a leader: first to the new mission church at Antioch (11:22) and later, at the first Christian council gathered in Jerusalem, as advocate on behalf of recent, non-Jewish converts to the Christian faith. Maybe Barnabas comes across as "quiet" because we do not have any words in the Scriptures that are attributed to him. What we DO know is that Barnabas was man of bold and profound faith, by virtue of the resurrected Jesus Christ. Our text for today tells us that he was one of the first people in Jerusalem who received the apostolic testimony that Jesus was alive. As a result of that testimony, he sold a piece of his property and brought the proceeds to those who were in need.
This past week many of us were touched by the work of Brenda and Phil Burden (and the other comfort dog handlers from Lutheran Church Charities) as they took their time, talent, and treasure to be with us and to testify to their Lord of Life both in person and in social media postings of their magnificent dogs at work. The early church was not always a place of perfect harmony, but testimony to the Christ who on the third day "rose again, from the dead" bound the people of God to one another and to those in need who were close at hand. By God's abundant grace they gathered to pray together. By God's unexpected mercy, they broke bread together. And by God's sufficient provision, they devoted what they had to one another, sharing where they could so that no one might be without. As they engaged what really mattered in the game of life they became sons and daughters of encouragement for one another. The risen Christ at work in and among them meant that they would never be alone.
Who can you encourage this week with your time, talent, or treasure...and in so doing quietly testify in loving action that "Christ is risen!"? May the Lord of the empty tomb empower you for that task, so that you might be "Barnabas" to a friend in need.