Grace and peace to you, from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Well, That’s a strange kettle of fish! In the few verses in Acts, chapter 13, we hear that the Holy Spirit speaks to Jesus’s followers in Antioch: “Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a childhood friend of Herod the ruler, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul, for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”
Next, we hear that Paul and Barnabas are traveling bringing the Good News about Jesus to the gentiles. And some accepted the Good News, and others did not. There was trouble in some places, but I don’t think they expected the trouble they ran in to at Lystra. Paul is used to opposition to the Good News. He, and those who walk with him sharing the Good News will be arrested, beaten and harassed. Soon a crowd will stone Paul, and leave him to die.
But this is a new kind of trouble. Rather than throw them out, arresting of trying to kill them, the people of Lystra worship them! When the people of Lystra see that Paul has healed the crippled man, these folks mistake him and Barnabas for Zeus and Hermes (!) and want to worship them. Paul and Barnabas have been called to share the Good News of God’s love among the gentiles, non-Jewish people, living in Lystra and other places.
Paul is telling the people about God and sharing the story of Jesus. Life, Death, and Resurrection. When he notices a man who was unable to walk listening to his speech, Paul sees something in him. “Paul, looking at him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And the man sprang up and began to walk. That’s when the story takes an unexpected turn. The people, instead of accusing them of witchcraft or getting their power from Satan – these folks worship Paul and Barnabas as if they were gods!
At first, Paul and Barnabas don’t understand what is happening, because the people are speaking in their own language, not a common language like Latin or Greek. When they figured out that these people believed they are gods, they tore their clothing. And Paul had to physically stop them from making a sacrifice to them. “People, why are you doing this? We are mortals just like you, and we bring you Good News, that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.” Paul goes on to tell the people the story of God creating Heaven and Earth, and providing everything needed for life to fill the Earth.
Paul and Barnabas thought they were bringing the Good News of Jesus to these people, but now they see that they have to start at the beginning with the creation story and share with them God’s love and care for all creation, and all the good things that come from God – giving you rains from Heaven, and fruitful seasons, and filling you with food and your hearts with joy.” Some listened, and others still wanted to worship them.
We, too, are called like Paul and Barnabas to go out strengthened, as they were, by gathering to worship, hearing the Word of God encouraging us, and sharing Communion. And sharing the Good News of God’s love. We may be welcomed by those we reach out to, but others will not welcome us. The Holy Spirit sent some of the disciples to the gentiles and others were sent to the Jews. Either way, it is important to remember that Jesus told the disciples that some people would not accept them, and that they are to move on and keep sharing what God has done for us and all creation. We also are to remember that this is about God’s of love for all people, not whether we are accepted or rejected. So, we like Paul and Barnabas, we too, are called to go out and share God’s love with others. Amen.