Vicar's Letter June
If I had to say which was my favourite saint, I’d choose St Barnabas who we remember on June 11th. I’d like to visit the site of Barnabas’ tomb on Cyprus; it's on my ‘bucket list’.
He was actually called Joseph, Barnabas was his nickname - Barnabas can be translated as ‘Son of Encouragement’. He was born of Jewish parents on the island of Cyprus around 1CE. His family were Levites (from which tribe the Temple priests came) and Barnabas spent much time in Jerusalem. How and why he became a Christian we don’t know but a Christian he did become and joined St Paul in missionary journeys. Barnabas was encouraging, generous and yet fallible. He showed huge saintliness and yet he showed himself weak at one point. Saints are human and flawed but their Godly qualities are what others remember. Often saints are likened to the pictures in stained glass windows; they allow sunlight through so we can see the image. Saints allow God to shine through them. Others who watch their lives and their actions see God in them.
I love his nickname. Encouraging others is such a good quality to have. There is a lot of bad news at the moment which can knock us down so to be encouraged is especially important at this time.
Barnabas was generous. Acts 4:36 tells us he sold a field he owned and gave the money to support the needs of the poor in the Christian Community. Generosity is needed during these hard times. We hear some Food Banks have been pleased by the public response. People have been generous.
All saints are also sinners. Barnabas was fallible - he made mistakes. And one of these mistakes is recorded in the Bible - Galatians chapter 2. On their missionary journey, Barnabas and Paul went to Antioch. At that time Jews and Gentiles could not eat together. However, as Christians, Barnabas and Paul would have shared meals with anyone, no matter what their background was. This changed when a strict party of Jewish Christians from Jerusalem came to visit Paul and Barnabas; these guests insisted it was wrong of Christian Jews to eat with Christian Gentiles. It was noted that while the guests were there, Barnabas changed and only ate with Jews. In other words, he was behaving one way with one set of people - eating with Gentiles but when the Jerusalem visitors came he didn’t. It’s called hypocrisy.
St Barnabas was human and made mistakes yet his qualities of encouraging and generosity shone so that he motivated and inspired others. He is remembered for these qualities, values which are needed at this time. Barnabas, we will remember you during our on-line service on the 11th June. We will pray that encouraging others and being generous will be qualities we will all show. We pray that, despite our weaknesses, others will see God in us.
St. Barnabas Church, near Famagusta, North Cyprus
Blessings - Jan
- Revd. Jan Ashton
Vicar of Hightown, Liverpool