The earliest Christians followed a Jewish tradition of pausing to pray, preferably together, first thing in the morning, about mid morning, at noon, about mid afternoon, and in the evening. “Just a Note” posts are brief observations made from Scripture readings not related to a lectionary. If I have one to post, it normally appears about 9:00 in the morning, at “the hour of prayer.”
Acts 13:1-3 gives us a glimpse of the operation of the Church in Antioch. There were a number of people known as “prophets” and “teachers.” They, fasting and gathered for prayer, received a message which they believed was from the Holy Spirit. They were to set aside Paul and Barnabas. It was not entirely clear what the purpose of this setting aside would be. However, they laid hands on Paul and Barnabas and appointed them.
Throughout my adult life I have heard, countless times, that Christians in history have been all about power and oppression. Church history, it is said, is written by the winners of the conflicts, those who were able to crush opposing ideas. This passage points to something radically different. Who appoints Paul and Barnabas? It is the local leaders. They made no appeal to apostolic authority. They didn’t have a conflict of any sort. There were no power struggles here. It was a peaceful process. The Holy Spirit made it clear to those local leaders that Paul and Barnabas were to be set apart for service, so they did it.
What is this service for which Paul and Barnabas were appointed? Again, it is not stated explicitly. Yet this remains the case when people are appointed to ministry in every age. Has God called his servants? Have they been recognized by the Church? With the laying on of hands and the prayers of our leaders, many of whom then step back into obscurity, we are set apart for service to Christ. As a pastor, I rarely go through an entire week which is predictable. Most of my work defies a job description, a protocol manual, or a time clock. It’s all right. The world is not a factory. It’s a place to care for souls. As Paul and Barnabas were set apart, so are pastors today. They go here and there, doing what the Lord has given them to do, and, hopefully, being cared for by God’s people. This is the essence of pastoral ministry.
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