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Trying On My Barnabas

For a long time, I strongly resonated with the fisherman Peter when he was called to become a disciple of Jesus.  Deciding to leave my 1st vocation after 26.5 years (that provided excellent salary and benefits), that was me 'dropping my net' to follow Christ.  I went, not knowing where or to what it would take me.  I sensed God calling me into something new, but never imagined (though others seemed to know, and tried to tell me) that ministry of a different kind, shape, and way lay ahead for me.  

For much of my former life (which seems long ago now), like Peter, I struggled with my own humanity as I began exploring what it meant to be a pastoral presence to others. I am not perfect, and like Peter, I have failed often.  But I was also learning to trust more in God's infinite power and mercy.  Like Peter, I am a simple man who desires to follow the example Christ has put before me.  Like Peter, I was thrust into positions of leadership which sometimes surprised me and at other times invoked panic within me.  Like Peter, I often said the first thing that came to mind (and that's not always helpful when you're really trying to be pastoral).

I could see God was challenging me to further explore the 'roots' of my faith, to claim my own sense of belonging, and to actively engage in and with community, to better understand and respond to God's purpose in my life.  I know that when I surrender my self and allow God to abide within me and work through me, I am gifted with whatever it is required to be that servant of God, whom Jesus sought and called.  Like Peter.  And I readily acknowledge that Heart Of My Heart is my Andrew.  She's the one who brought me back to the fold, and has always encouraged me to consider what others have been saying to me about new ministry.  That's a lot to lay on her, but I believe she can handle it.   

But lately, I've been urged to consider whether a different ancestor of the faith might better fit as my model for ministry.

Barnabas, whose name means 'Son of Encouragement,' was also a disciple of Christ, and later an Apostle.

A recent seminar to begin considering life after graduation from seminary was sponsored by the Episcopal Church Foundation, and offered through a pilot program called The Barnabas Project.  The opening guided meditation on Barnabas, "Son of Encouragement" seemed to strike a chord deep within me.  To offer support, confidence, or hope to someone else; to provide assistance and advice to others in order that they will do or continue to do something.  That is to help stimulate an activity, state, or view to develop; to encourage, embolden, hearten, to foster, and even to instigate (in a positive manner).  It caught me by surprise, but that was not the end of it.

Several days later while talking with my field ed mentor about my long affinity towards Peter, he challenged that, saying his experience of me was less like Peter, and more like Barnabas. He cited instances, one after another, where he saw me being an encouraging presence: to individual parishioners, the whole congregation, the vestry and other groups, including my lay committee, during Bible classes I led, and with him personally.  He specifically noted my early efforts to revive and re-energize a lapsed parish ministry with a new vision for lay pastoral visiting.  Afterward he handed me some photo-copied pages from Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints for Saint Barnabas the Apostle's Feast Day on June 11.  Wow!  Now that's a 'God-incident' if I ever felt one!  I took a moment to reflect on the night before when, as I critiqued classmates' presentations that had not 'floated my boat,' I tried carefully to offer only constructive feedback meant to encourage them. 

In the Acts of The Apostles, we are introduced to this man Barnabas.  "There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means "son of encouragement").  He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet."  My 'dropping my net' way back when as Peter was now related to me as Barnabas 'selling my field' and giving my profit to encourage the work of ministry.  This introduction begins the work of mission and ministry by Barnabas for the church.  It was Barnabas who brought Saul/Paul to the apostles who were afraid to receive him, declaring to them how, on the road to Damascus, Paul had been convicted by the Lord to end his persecution of the church and to boldly preach in the name of Jesus.  Later, as missioner to Antioch, along with Paul, Barnabas worked to establish the Christian Church.  All that we know about Barnabas comes from the letters of Paul (Galatians, Corinthians, Colossians) about how he continued his journeys to spread the Gospel.

So maybe I am now less like Peter and more like Barnabas.
 
Barnabas, Apostle of Jesus Christ, I am happy and honored to wear your mantle of encouragement.  "Grant, O God, that [I] may follow the example of your faithful servant Barnabas, who, seeking not his own renown but the well-being of your Church, gave generously of his life and substance for the relief of the poor and the spread of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  AMEN." ~ Contemporary Collect, HWHM, pg. 411.     

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
romelover
Dec. 27th, 2011 03:20 am (UTC)
this fits. or it will once your Christmas cold leaves you....

i love you!

:-)
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )