Scripture: Acts 15: 36-16:5
Key verse: (36) “Come, let us return and visit the believers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord and see how they are doing”
Reflection: After teaching and proclaiming the word of the Lord to the believers in Antioch, Paul and Barnabas have a “sharp disagreement” over who they should take with them on their next trip. Barnabas wanted to take Mark, but Paul objected. Apparently, Mark deserted them on another trip and Paul doesn’t want to risk this happening again. They couldn’t agree, so they part ways. Barnabas sails to Cyprus with Mark and Paul and Silas go to Syria and Cilicia. Their goal was to encourage and strengthen the congregations that were in that region.
Church communities need encouragement, especially now. We haven’t been able to worship or meet together in person. Many people feel disconnected from the community of faith and from God. Too often, we focus exclusively on this separation and worry what will happen to our church. There are so many unknowns. The early church didn’t have beautiful stone buildings to worship in on an expansive campus. During times of persecution they worshipped in secret out of fear of the authorities. They worshipped wherever they could find a safe place, usually people’s homes. Church building construction was discouraged since it was believed that Jesus would return soon. The word church in Greek is ecclesia, which means “the called out ones”. The church is not a building but the people who are called to follow Jesus Christ. In the face of our current challenges, we need to continue to support and encourage one another through prayer and loving action. One day we will be able to gather together again in the fellowship and worship we enjoy. In the meantime, we need to speak more words of encouragement to each other, as hard as that can be some days. Our faith is being tested in ways we never imagined. We have been given an opportunity to look inward and reflect on our lives which can be uncomfortable without life’s many distractions. We have been given an opportunity to continue to live out our faith in new ways by supporting our ministry partners who are providing food and shelter to families, lunch for children in school, and Wi-Fi for those who can’t afford it so their children can learn from home. We can deliver a casserole, volunteer at a food drive, call someone who is isolated at home, and pray for one another. Let’s not become weary proclaiming the life giving word of God – a message of hope and love. These things are at the heart of the Gospel. Let us, like Paul and Barnabas, lay aside what is bothering us and strengthen other believers with compassion and encouragement.
How might you do this today?
Prayer: Gracious God, we give thanks for those who have gone before us setting a good example of faith. May we learn from Paul and Barnabas how to support and encourage one another. Help us to proclaim your Gospel and when necessary, use words. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Author: Deborah Conner
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].