The Succentor - Revd Rachel Young
Isaiah 42.5-12; Acts 14.8-end
I wonder if you can remember a time in your life when you were encouraged by someone?
If you can, you may have experienced that encouragementhaving a profound impact on you.
Those of us who have not been encouraged much in life might sense that had we been so, things might have turned out differently.
Today is the Eve of the feast day of Barnabas, the Apostle.
His name, Barnabas, means ‘Son of encouragement’ – it was a name given to him by the disciples because it described what he was like – he was an encourager, and we hear his story throughout the first part of the book of Acts.
We first hear of him in chapter 4, where he sold a field and gave the proceeds to the fledgling church. Then in chapter 9, Barnabas encourages and supports Paul, by taking him to the leaders of the church in Jerusalem and describing his conversion to them. This obviously impressed them, because in chapter 11 Barnabas is sent by them to Antioch – in modern-day Turkey – to work with the Greek-speaking converts to Christianity.
From there, he went to Tarsus to look for Paul, and they must have hit it off, because from then on they travelled and preached together around that area of Turkey – and we heard some of that story in our New Testament reading from chapter 14 - until they disagreed about who else to take with them, and parted company. Barnabas went to Cyprus with Mark, and Paul took Silas to Syria and Cilicia.
Tradition has it that Barnabas was martyred in Cyprus around the year AD 61.
Barnabas is described as ‘a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.’ (Acts 11.24) He appears in the story almost in the shadows, and steps up as someone who is there when an encourager is exactly what was needed:
He took it upon himself to sidle up to Paul and stand up for him in front of the other disciples and he became a friend and fellow-missionary with him; and he encouraged the Greek-speaking converts to Christianity to ‘remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion’ (Acts 11.23).
Being someone who is content to be a supporter and an encourager is a gift to other people. God evidently used Barnabas as a gift to Paul and the early Greek-speaking churches. As a result, ‘a great many people were brought to the Lord.’ (Acts 11.24)
God can use such people today, too.
Who in the church today could we identify as someone similar?
Well, I would suggest that there are probably more Barnabas’ around than we realise.
By definition, we probably wouldn’t have heard about them. There are many ordinary, unknown Christians going about their daily lives encouraging others – and that is how it should be.
My experience in working here within the community of the Cathedral is that there are many encouragers around! An encourager is someone with the right words or actions that give someone else the perseverance and hope they need; saying, “That was good – well done” or “Don’t worry, next time you’ll feel better about that”; “You can do it!”
God brings his kingdom into being by inspiring those who encourage others to use and develop their God-given gifts in his service, to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps you were encouraged by someone to do that?
Give thanks to God for them.
Perhaps you’d like to encourage people more?
Ask for the help of the Holy Spirit.
Or perhaps you are a natural encourager –
if so, thank you for being like Barnabas.