While there are no major festivals in the Church’s calendar in June, there are plenty of saint’s days to celebrate, from Justin Martyr on the 1st to those great pillars of the early church, St Peter and St Paul on the 29th June. Sometimes saints and the stories of their lives can seem outside our experience and even make us feel inadequate but I am sure this is not true for St Barnabas whose feast day is 11th June.
Barnabas was a Cypriot Jew named Joseph by his parents, but was given his new name, Barnabas, by the apostles when he sold a field and gave the entire proceeds of the sale to the church that was growing in Jerusalem. His generous action must have really encouraged this group of Jesus’ followers because Barnabas means son of encouragement. Barnabas went on to encourage others to grow in their faith in Jesus when he travelled beyond Jerusalem on missionary journeys often with St Paul.
Encouragement is something we all need, from when we are small children, throughout schooling and working years and on to the challenges of later life. This is especially true when life throws up disasters and difficulties in a world full of uncertainties when traditional values are challenged and everyday there is gloomy news. We could all do with a Barnabas in our lives to encourage us and he provides an example of wholehearted generosity and encouragement for us to follow.
Although it is clear we should comfort and encourage people when times are tough and when their faith is faltering we may also be called to be bold, to encourage others to take risks and step out in faith. The saints did not walk this earth six inches (15cm!) above everyone else but they did have a faith that enabled them to go forward even if the way ahead was uncertain and often dangerous. We should all encourage one another to live in this way of risky faith, putting our trust in God who always loves us and cares for us.
Revd Jane Culliford Vicar, St Andrew's Church