God reels us into technicolour – Saturday, 5th week in Easter – Acts 16:1-10

The text of today skips chapter 15:36 onwards which records the pre-departure preparation of Paul on his second missionary journey. This journey will begin in Acts 15:37 and end in Acts 18:22. This journey which will take Paul through Asia Minor and then Macedonia should have begun with celebratory tones. We know that Paul’s position was vindicated at the Council of Jerusalem. This meant that the Gentile believers did not have to be circumcised. Yet, what happens next is not a matter of celebration.

There was a disagreement between Paul and Barnabas. Barnabas wanted his cousin John Mark, the writer of the Gospel to accompany them but Paul would have none of it. It was John Mark who had left the trio on the first missionary journey when they were in Pamphylia and returned to Jerusalem. The text of today tells us that Paul perceived him as a deserter. We are told that the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas was ‘sharp’ enough for them to ‘part company.’

As we complete Chapter 15, we are left with two unhappy situations. The Judaizers (as we will be told later) will hold a grudge against Paul. Circumcision was not mandated for the Gentile Christians and this was a decision that would leave many bitter. But this animosity was only compounded by the fallout between Paul and Barnabas who, up unto now, were brothers in arms.

Here is Paul setting out on the second missionary journey. While he had a mandate from the headquarters, he had lost the support of his brother in the mission and the support of many Jewish Christians. This could not have been the way Paul envisioned his ministry. Yet God took his Church, through Paul, to Europe.

Today’s text tells us that Paul desired to evangelize in Asia (modern-day Turkey) but was prevented and redirected to Europe. A man of Macedonia fills his dreams calling him to ‘help them.’ Yet verse 14 tells us that it was a woman named Lydia who would be the first to be baptized with her household. This would be the first European convert.

On so many levels, the second missionary journey seemed doomed to failure. Paul lost Barnabas as a friend and brother. He lost the support of many Jewish Christians who hated him. His plan to minister to Asia was changed by the Holy Spirit which prevented his plans.

So much of our lives may reflect the challenges of Paul. Our desire to minister is thwarted by God’s spirit. Friends we loved and cherished, disagree and fall out with us forging into their ministry. Many of those who once supported us now see us as adversaries in ministry.

So much of our faith story is black and white. It is God who will finally reel us into technicolour

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