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Faith of A Mustard Seed

by Barbara Woods-Washington

Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

“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 tetrarch and Saul.  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.”  Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.  So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit they went down to Seleucia; and from there they sailed to Cyprus.  When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews.  And they had John to assist them.  When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus.  He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.  But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) withstood them, seeking to turn away the proconsul from the faith.”  (Acts 13:1-8).  4th occurrence of ‘pistis/faith’ in Acts where it is now firmly spoken of as “THE FAITH”.

The capital of Syria, Antioch was considered a city of first rank.  Behind Rome and Alexandria, Antioch is thought of as perhaps the third greatest city of the Greco Roman world.  Its strategic location made its harbors an important trade center of the eastern Mediterranean world.  Coupled with sitting on the best land route between Asia Minor, Palestine and the Middle East, Antioch was a ‘cultural melting pot’ and is spoken of as a ‘cosmopolitan meeting place of Greeks, Syrians and Jews’.  It is no small thing that amidst the persecution of the original Jerusalem church following Stephen’s stoning; of the new locations of the scattered disciples, Antioch would prove the strongest hold.  It must be borne in mind that ‘church’ is now ‘ekklesia’— that which is called out; the gathered, and is not to be thought of as the modern formalized church as an established ‘housed’ community.  (They are now still found among the Jewish community where the ‘house’ is synagogue and Temple).

Living today in the light of another of America’s Mass Shootings.  On the heels of last weeks Mass Shooting in The Topps Grocery store in Buffalo, NY killing 8; this week the killing of 19 Elementary School Children and 2 Teachers by a gun violent Teen-Ager who declared war on this classroom full of children in Uvalde, Texas.  I wrote on Facebook today, “I am sick and tired of the ‘Impotent Church Life’ in America!”

When the news reaches the Jerusalem church of the success of ‘The Faith’ in Antioch’, they send Barnabas.  Barnabas goes to Tarsus looking for Saul and together they spend what Acts accounts for as ‘a year’ in ministry in Antioch.  Outside of scriptural accounts, local writing of Antioch reference Barnabas and Saul preaching in a street called ‘Siagon’ near the Pantheon.  Yet, in the developing history of the Christian Church, the church at Antioch would be a force to reckon with.  To be sure, it is in Antioch where the disciples are first called Christians.

Having raised up an ‘ekklesia’ which has among them prophets and teachers— with Barnabas as ‘appointed leader’ sent from Jerusalem and Saul as his ‘chosen’ associate; “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.”

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