Dear Christ Church Family,
There is so much that discourages us right now. To discourage means to lose courage and to take courage out of others. Never has the ministry of Encouragement, putting courage into others, been more needed. Today we celebrate the life and ministry of the saint who defined this ministry with his life. His story follows.
Thursday, June 11, 2020 RCL Daily Office Readings, Year 2
St. Barnabas: the saint whose very name said what he was about. Barnabas is one of my most favorite early Church saints. His name says it all: “Son of Encouragement.” And he lived that name throughout the accounts of his life. Being encouragers of each other is one of the most important intentional ministries any of us can have; one that all of us can take up. But first, here’s what Lesser Feasts and Fasts says about his life:
“Joseph, a Levite born in Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), sold a field he owned, brought the money, and turned it over to the apostles” (Acts 4:36–37). This first reference in the New Testament to Barnabas introduces one whose missionary efforts would cause him to be called, like the Twelve, an apostle.
As a Jew of the diaspora, Barnabas had much in common with Paul. When Paul came to Jerusalem after his conversion, the disciples were afraid to receive him. It was Barnabas who brought Paul to the apostles, and declared to them how, on the road to Damascus, Paul had seen the Lord, and had preached boldly in the name of Jesus (Acts 9:27). Later, Barnabas, having settled in Antioch, sent for Paul to join him in leading the Christian church in that city.
Barnabas and Paul were sent by the disciples in Antioch to carry famine relief to the church in Jerusalem. Upon their return, the church in Antioch sent them on their first missionary journey beginning at Cyprus. At Lystra in Asia Minor, the people took them to be gods, supposing the eloquent Paul to be Mercury, the messenger of the gods, and Barnabas to be Jupiter, the chief of the gods, a testimony to the commanding presence of Barnabas.
The association of Barnabas and Paul was broken after their journey, by a disagreement about Mark, who had left the mission to return to Jerusalem. After attending the Council of Jerusalem with Barnabas, Paul made a return visit to the churches that he and Barnabas had founded in Asia Minor. Barnabas and Mark went to Cyprus, where Barnabas is traditionally honored as the founder of the church. Tradition has it that he was martyred at Salamis in Cyprus.”
So, about that ministry of encouragement. To encourage others means to put courage into someone else. It means to so strengthen another that courage swells within them for whatever challenge they may be facing. How do we do that for another person? It’s not as hard as it might appear at first thought. Here’s one simple way that really works.
A neuropsychologist did a study, not long ago, on the energy levels in children. He found that when children are given a word of praise, no matter how tired they may be at the time, an immediate upsurge in new energy will register in their brains. However, when even well-rested children are criticized or discouraged, their energy levels will nose-dive. My guess is that those results are replicated in adults. When we are praised, our energy levels go up. When we are criticized, our energy levels go down. This study shows just one way that we can be encouragers of each other. Here’s another.
Now, more than a hundred years after his death, Episcopal priest and bishop Phillips Brooks is still considered to be the most beloved clergyman in the City of Boston’s history. One day a Harvard University professor sought out Phillips Brooks. The professor had a serious problem and needed help. He spent an hour with Brooks and came out a changed man. Later it dawned on him that he hadn’t even asked Brooks about his problem. He wrote later on, “I did not care; I had found out that what I needed was not the solution to a special problem, but the contagion of a triumphant spirit.”
I love that phrase, “the contagion of a triumphant spirit.” A triumphant spirit is contagious. When we become encouragers of others, our own spirit becomes contagious; we lift the spirit and restore the courage in others. One of the most important ministries you and I will ever engage in is to become an encourager; someone who puts courage into others, wherever you are.
Right now, even as we are planning for reopening, we are continuing, and will continue, to find new ways to be the Church. So, bear with us, and be with us, now. Log in to the worship and fellowship gatherings as much as you can. Doing this will encourage your faith and strengthen you in your spiritual walk. But even more, you just showing up, letting yourself be seen participating, will encourage everyone else who will get to see you.