Chronicles of a Quiet Hero – Part 4 – Sermon by Alex Moir – 22 November 2020

WELCOME

Good morning First Baptist. We welcome you to worship this morning. Be sure to remember your brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the week as you pray for them, and as the Holy Spirit brings their faces to your mind. Be sure to also connect with them in the ways that are possible. And if you have any questions or would like to talk to someone, please don’t hesitate to contact the church through the church telephone and leave a message. (519-733-4144)

Scripture Reading: Psalm 30:1a

“I will exalt you, O Lord … for you lifted me out of the depths.”

Prayer

How we praise you, our gracious Father, that whatever depths we find ourselves in you are not absent from us.  In Jesus strong name we pray … amen.

Song

Today's Message: Chronicles of a Quiet Hero – Part 4

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Scripture Reading: Acts 15:36-41

36  Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns  where we preached the word of the Lord  and see how they are doing.”  37  Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark,  with them,  38  but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them  in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work.  39  They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus,  40  but Paul chose Silas  and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord.  41  He went through Syria  and Cilicia,  strengthening the churches.

When we last saw our heroes, a partnership was just beginning.  Faith in Jesus was spreading, all the way to the significant city of Antioch, where Barnabas met with these new believers at the request of the mother church in Jerusalem.  For assistance he fetched Saul from Tarsus … and the first missionary journey had begun!

Fast forward to today’s episode, with that first journey completed and another set to take place.  Saul has now become Paul and he is suggesting that they pay a visit, “… to the brothers (and sisters) in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing (v. 36).”  It’s always wise to do some follow-up and consolidation … after all, we all benefit from important truths being repeated!

However, it soon becomes apparent that Paul’s suggestion has given rise to a disagreement between him and his trusted friend.  The NIV translates the Greek noun as “sharp disagreement” but it can also mean “irritation” or “provocation.”  We are often a bit uncomfortable with conflict expressed within the confines of the church.  Most folks get enough of that at work, in their neighbourhood or even sometimes at the family level.  In a way we gather together at church to avoid conflict.  A friend who was serving as the treasurer of a church, upon experiencing something like this in her congregation, was heard to exclaim at a board meeting, “I thought this was one happy family!”  Well, it is a family … and you know what families can be like!

As we read further in our story, we discover the source of the conflict.  It is a personnel issue, really, centered around a suggestion from Barnabas.  The text reads, “Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them …” (v. 37).  This young man had accompanied them on their first trip, but had abandoned the company before the journey was completed.  Paul readily expresses his reservations about including him on the team again, using very strong language, accusing Mark of “deserting” them (v. 38).  Though this divergence of opinions may be hard to watch unfold, we really can’t blame Paul … this kind of trip requires a dependable team and Mark has failed them once already.  Someone has said, “90% of genius is just showing up.”  In our most important endeavours, especially when it comes to our Christian mission, consistency is often as important as giftedness or expertise.

The solution to the problem comes in the agreement by Paul and Barnabas to “agree to disagree.”  Their decision to “part company” (v. 39) has an “up” side … they are able to double their missionary effort, with an increase in staff and two trips as opposed to just one.  Paul’s goal is the success of the mission and so he chooses Silas, a Roman citizen who speaks several languages and possesses a good work ethic.  But Barnabas sticks with John Mark, somewhat because he is a relative but perhaps for another reason as well … his goals are somewhat more nuanced than those of his friend Paul.  Certainly, he believes in the successful spread of the good news … but he realizes that growth and development of team members are important as well.

I wonder if there is a lesson here for us in the church.  As a church planter I was always grateful for new folks who came from established congregations with finely honed gifts and abilities … but we didn’t get many of those, at least not in the early years of both the new churches I served.  Part of our role as believer’s churches is to commit to effective programs of Christian education.  Of course, this springs from our belief in the importance of scripture as the ultimate teaching tool … and this ought to be evident throughout our ministry, establishing the Bible as our foundation from the pulpit right on through our other ministries including our children.  One of the mottos I have used through the years is “the shaping of young lives”, as an important priority in our church ministry.  I think this was part of what motivated Barnabas to include his cousin John Mark in the journey they were prepared to take … and it ought to be a major part of our motivation in the ministry of our churches today.

The results for both these mission trips were very encouraging.  As we read further in Acts, we learn that Paul and Silas did more than just encouraging the new fellowships which had been planted earlier.  It was during this time that Paul received his “Macedonian call” in a dream that led to the sharing of the gospel throughout Greece and resulted in the letters of I and II Thessalonians, and I and II Corinthians which have been so instructive to the Christian church through the ages.  Further, Paul’s trip to Greece included a visit to Athens … and which of us has not been touched to the core of our beings by the story about his chance to preach on Mars Hill, at the foot of the Acropolis?  And some of the words from that message … “Now what you worship as unknown, I am going to proclaim to you (Acts 17:23); “For in Him we live and move and have our being (v. 28);” are some of the most moving in all of scripture.

And what of the success of Barnabas’ trip with John Mark?  We don’t know many specifics about what happened there … but we are beneficiaries of the patience of Barnabas and his commitment to integrate spiritual growth and personal development into his goal “package” with mission projects.  Most of us know John Mark as the author of the second gospel … the foundational gospel in the New Testament which both Matthew and Luke used as vital research data in the formation of their gospels.  Mark received his information used in his gospel directly from the mouth of the apostle Peter, just a short time before this important leader in the early church was executed by the mad Roman emperor Nero.  The New Testament would have been impoverished without the gospel of Mark.  In spite of his beginnings, this courageous disciple feverishly recorded every word from one of the most important eyewitnesses to the ministry of Jesus, in spite of the danger of persecution … and we are the stronger for it.  And later in Christian history, we read that even Paul, who doubted Mark so strongly earlier, has noticed a change as well.  “Get Mark and bring him with you”, he writes in II Timothy 4:11, “because he is helpful to me in my ministry.”

Yes, we need to be successful in our ventures for the Lord.  But success comes in a variety of packages …

Prayer

How we praise You our Father for Your affirmation in our service to You.  We come with modest gifts that need to be sharpened and honed … and You provide us with the tools for growth.  Especially on this day we think of those who have played the role of Barnabas in our lives … who were willing to look beyond a rough exterior to a work that Your Spirit could do in our lives.

In thinking of Barnabas, we may become aware of the times when we’ve been too hasty in our judgements on the lives entrusted to us.  We ask that You forgive our impatience and remind us, from the truth in our scripture today, that our success may be judged on how we have invested in the precious ones you’ve guided our way.

Finally, we think of the challenges faced by some in our lives and world.  As we come to the end of the month where we’ve been encouraged to remember major conflicts of the past, we think of ways we could manage the “sharp disagreements” in our lives.  Truly these circumstances that all of us encounter form the building blocks of peace in our neighbourhoods, families and churches.  May we be quick to listen and thoughtful in our use of words, entrusting in Your Spirit for the change that needs to take place in every life … including ours.  We pray in the name of the one we call, “the Prince of Peace.”  Amen

Song

Benediction

“If there is any person who fears the Lord, they shall be shown the path that they should choose.” 

Psalm 25:12