Slow your breathing and become aware of the taking in and letting out of your breath. Focus on putting things aside so you will be open to what God is saying to you today.
13 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul. 2 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.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia; and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John also to assist them. 6 When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they met a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet, named Bar-Jesus. 7 He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God. 8 But the magician Elymas (for that is the translation of his name) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9 But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 11 And now listen—the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind for a while, unable to see the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he went about groping for someone to lead him by the hand. 12 When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.
With a scripture like Acts 13:1-12, I like to put myself in the story and image that I am one of the different characters in it. The scene is set. The followers have prayed over, fasted for, and then laid hands on Saul and Barnabas. They sail to Cyprus and begin to proclaim the work of God in the Jewish synagogues. And John comes to help. Then a false prophet or magician named Bar-Jesus comes with Sergius Paulus (whose name sounds like a mob boss), a smart man and then they call for Saul and Barnabas to hear what they have to say about God.
If I were Bar-Jesus I would have started to get a little nervous. I have this good gig with Sergius so I start doing my stuff and try to keep his interest from straying to these two strangers. I can hardly image someone calling me a son of the devil, an enemy of righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, and accusing me of making the Lord’s paths crooked. At least to my face! And not only do Paul and Barnabas call me these names they also curse me to a temporary blindness (I wonder where Paul thought of that idea?). I can’t even slink away without a helping hand. And the worst is that Sergius now believes these guys and what they say about their God. Any hope for me has been ruined.
It’s a little harder to relate to Saul and Barnabas simply because they have such courage and confidence in proclaiming the good news. And yet I have felt at times that I was filled with the Holy Spirit to the point where I feel I can do more than I might normally do. That’s the thing about the good news. It is less about the vessel that holds it and more about how God takes it and forms it to meet the needs of the one receiving it. Praise God that that is the truth!
God of all that is good we thank you that you have chosen us to be a vessel for the good news that needs to be shared in this world. We pray that you would take us and mold us and make us into a message that can be heard and shared to all your people. Amen.
Go with God!