Today's Lectionary Text
Acts 9:26-31When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him. They didn’t believe he was really a disciple.
Then Barnabas brought Saul to the apostles and told them the story about how Saul saw the Lord on the way and that the Lord had spoken to Saul. He also told them about the confidence with which Saul had preached in the name of Jesus in Damascus. After this, Saul moved freely among the disciples in Jerusalem and was speaking with confidence in the name of the Lord. He got into debates with the Greek-speaking Jews as well, but they tried to kill him. When the family of believers learned about this, they escorted him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. God strengthened the church, and its life was marked by reverence for the Lord. Encouraged by the Holy Spirit, the church continued to grow in numbers.
I have some fond memories of my kindergarten days at Howard Wilson School in Leavenworth, Kansas. Mrs. Russell was my teacher, and she had a magic machine — what is now an old-school overhead projector — that allowed her to write on the wall!
Another memory came one day when two of my friends got into a fight. I have no recollection at all what it was over, but I remember getting between them, putting my open hand on each of their chests and pushing them away from each other.
It was at that moment that Mrs. Russell saw what was going on, and from her point of view, it looked like I was pushing people. She directed me to sit at my table with my head down just before directing everyone else to line up for recess.
I had never been in trouble before, so I remember being scared. But I also remember being upset that she thought I was starting the fight. After all, I was trying to be the peacemaker!
It was at that moment that my friend, Jay, spoke up. He told Mrs. Russell that I had not started a fight but actually had broken up a confrontation that was soon to become a fight. Jay served as my advocate when I needed someone to speak up on my behalf, and Mrs. Russell believed him.
In today’s text, Saul needs an advocate. He has spent years at this point persecuting Christians, serving as fierce defender of the Law of Moses. His conversion on the road to Damascus shows him he now needs to join the disciples in their mission. But the followers of Jesus at that time aren’t buying it. After all, they had every reason to believe they were being tricked by someone who just a short time earlier wanted to round them up and kill them.
But Barnabas — a man who obviously had plenty of credibility among the believers — steps forward to share what he has witnessed. This one-time persecutor of Christians has made a real conversion, the very change of heart that Jesus talked about and that they were encouraging others to make.
Saul, who we know more widely as Paul, would of course go on to be the most prolific of evangelists for Christ. And he and Barnabas would be a dynamic duo, at least for a time.
And it started with Barnabas serving as an advocate for Saul, just as Jay served as an advocate for me way back in kindergarten.
Is there anyone who needs you to speak up for them for some reason this day? If so, I pray you will have the courage to do what Barnabas did: Stand as an advocate, an ally in their cause.
— Todd Seifert, director of communications
Prayer for Reflection
Loving God, thank you for giving us the opportunity and skills to speak for those who otherwise would not be heard. Give us the wisdom, strength and courage we need to speak as advocates for the voiceless, the marginalized and just those folks we encounter who need a friend. Amen.
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