Thought for the Day by Angela Birkin of St Chad’s
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. While they were worshipping 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.Acts 13:1-3
In my last TFTD on August 28th we met, albeit briefly, a young man named Saul who held the coats of those who stoned Stephen, the first Christian martyr, and “approved of their killing him“ (Acts 8.1). Today we read that Saul was set apart with Barnabas by the church at Antioch for the work of the Holy Spirit, and sent off on mission. That’s quite a turnaround, quite a change in the direction of Saul’s life. Who could have foreseen that?
The people who were the early church must have prayed hard after Stephen’s death that Saul would stop persecuting them. Perhaps they prayed that Saul’s attention would be drawn elsewhere. Perhaps they hoped that God would strike Saul down. However, the direction of Saul’s life changed, along with his name which he changed to Paul, when he met the risen Christ on the way to Damascus, and from then on he followed the guidance of the Holy Spirit. That must have been a shocking answer to their prayers for the first Christians, for they now had to learn to forgive, trust and work with their former enemy and persecutor. It can’t have been easy, but here they are in our reading today trusting in the Holy Spirit and sending Saul and Barnabas off with a blessing.
So, what about us? Are we prepared for God to answer our prayers in surprising and challenging ways? Are we prepared for the fact that God’s answer to our prayers may require us to work in new ways with new people? Are we prepared to trust the Holy Spirit who blows where she blows and is not tame or under our control?
Here is some music to listen to while you ponder. It is by Iona and called the Flight of the Wild Goose. Some of you may know that Celtic Christians referred to the Holy Spirit as the Wild Goose.