Where I spray-paint my thoughts…

Happy St. Barnabas’ Day!!


OK, so I don’t expect everyone who reads my blog (or really anyone, hardly) to know that June 11 is the feast day of St. Barnabas.  Most Christian readers of my blog are fellow Adventists or evangelicals who are not so much into the saint thing, and presumably my non-Christian friends aren’t so much into saints either.  Even if you’re Catholic or Anglican and actually follow the calendar of feast days and saints’ days and such, you’d have to be pretty hardcore, I think, to celebrate a Biblical footnote like St. Barnabas.

But Barnabas’s day is the one I really do care about, because I’ve sort of adopted him as a personal patron saint.  He’s not actually listed as the patron saint of anything except Cyprus, although apparently he can be invoked for protection against hailstorms.  However, in my unilateral protestant way, I’ve decided Barnabas should be the patron saint of teachers, youth leaders, and anyone who works with at-risk youth, and it is as such that I have adopted him as my personal patron.

In case you’re not all down with the Biblicals, here’s the story on Barnabas: after the conversion of the considerably more famous apostle Paul, Barnabas was sent out as a co-missionary to the Gentiles along with Paul.  They had a great road trip, making converts, preaching the word, getting stoned and run out of town, etc.  The book of Acts explains that Barnabas’s young cousin Mark was along on this tour — until he got tired of the whole persecution routine, at which point he said, “This sucks,” and went home.

Later, Mark rethought the missionary deal and figured, “It didn’t suck THAT much,” and asked if he could accompany Paul and Barnabas on their next road trip.  Paul put his foot down and said, “No way, Mark’s a loser, he flaked out on us before and I have no intention of trusting him again.”  Barnabas said, “Dude, he’s just a kid. Cut him some slack. Let’s see if he’s really dedicated this time.”  (I’m paraphrasing fairly freely here, I hope you realize.  Scholars of New Testament Greek will, I hope, forgive me).

Paul — a great apostle but not a famously flexible person — refused to budge.  At which point Barnabas said, “Fine then, I’m going to take a chance on Mark. We’ll go off and do our OWN little missionary journey, and you can find a new partner, Saint Paul.”  And they went their separate ways.

And this is why I love this guy, Barnabas.  He gave up a gig as part of the greatest evangelistic team in history to take a second chance on a loser kid who’d already proven himself unreliable and unsuccessful.  Later, even Paul admitted that Mark was “helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11).  So apparently once Mark had proven he had the right stuff, Paul was willing to work with him again. But he probably never would have had the chance to prove that without Barnabas.

I have spent most of my life working with teenagers in some capacity or another. I have been a high school teacher in three church schools, one public school, and now in an adult-ed centre for former high school dropouts who are returning to complete their coursework.  In church, I’ve been a junior Sabbath School teacher, a youth leader, and of course (see yesterday’s blog) a Pathfinder leader.  And I have to say that in all those years I have never met one kid — not one — who I would label hopeless or worthless or without potential.  As long as somebody (it hasn’t always been me) has been willing to see the good in a young person, take a chance on them, be Barnabas to their Mark, they have the capacity to grow.  No matter how they’ve messed up in the past, every kid is worth a second chance.

I [heart] Barnabas because I’ve committed my life to doing for kids what he did for Mark — seeing the good in them, seeing past their mistakes, trusting them with a second chance.  And as a parent, I hope to do that for my own kids.  I’ve also recognized that when kids get to a certain age, no matter how loving and supportive their parents are, they also need someone outside the family circle — a teacher, a coach, a youth leader or other mentor — to believe in them and respect them and mentor them.  I’ve been privileged to be that person for several young people over the years and I pray that when the time comes, there’ll be someone around to do that for my kids too.


18 thoughts on “Happy St. Barnabas’ Day!!

  1. I love it when you go all Bible on us, Trudy.

  2. Thanks for that, Trudy. I also like St. Barnabas. We started building works at our house on his day last year (I didn’t know it was his day) and I’m remembering the anniversary today – we’re not quite finished. It’s been a stressful time. By the way, have you thought about the passage in Acts where it says that Barnabas went from Antioch to Tarsus to find Paul and bring him back to Antioch? Why do you think Paul was in Tarsus and needed to be found? Had he given up? Regards, John

  3. Oh, my gosh, that was the most interesting version of Acts I’ve ever read. No wonder you do so well with teenagers.

    I just finished reading Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. It was rude and sacrilegious, but very funny. It had a similar tone to your version (though Biffs … facts … were a bit off).

    Oddly, it brought me closer to Christ (at least partly because I spent a lot of time in the New Testament, either mentally or literally comparing the discrepancies, but still).

  4. G’day Trudy
    A friend of mine pointed me to you post after reading a couple of my recent ones. He thought I might find your Barnabas story encouraging. He was right!
    Gotta say I love your paraphrasing.

  5. Hey!
    Thanks for the wonderful email (former students and the enlightening blog. I didn’t know Barnabas had a day, let alone was a saint, but now I’m enlightened.

    1st – I agree with fellow-posters that your paraphrase is contemporary and relevant (esp with the context) as well as the pun on “stoned” – too funny!

    2nd – Although I didn’t take a class from you (and I wish I DID), I still look to you as a mentor figure who emulated a passionate love for English, writing, and experiencing life & literature (riding in the Heart of Gold inspired me to seek out the meaning of 42 in the trilogy of 4 parts – now 5). Thank YOU for all you have done and continue to do.

    3rd – As an English teacher who was inspired by you, I’d like to offer you the sincerest form of flattery and adopt St. Barnabas’ Day to assist me in reaching out to others. I agree. . .I have been frustrated with some students, but I’ve never seen then without potential (in fact, those are the ones who usually have a huge amount of potential).

    God bless!

  6. Love the vernacular. Of course, you’ve become so much more than “my former teacher”, as you know.

    I loved The Gospel According to Biff, by the way. I didn’t find it rude or sacrilegious, though I expected to. I thought, despite the way it seemed it would go from time to time, that the book treated it’s subject matter respectfully…though it came to the edge more than a few times. (I particularly liked how Jesus got hopped up on coffee and skipped around square healing people at random.)

  7. Barnabas is a favorite of mine as well. As are youth. And people who encourage youth!

    Your Acts paraphrase is great!

  8. This one had better go on your top twenty sidebar list.

  9. I’m still laughing over “preaching the word, getting stoned and run out of town, etc.”

    Here in Berkeley, that’s what we call an example.

  10. Thanks for the comments everyone. Just in case “The Message” wasn’t enough of a “free translation” for you, watch for Trudy’s Biblical paraphrase in stores … never, probably.

  11. Thanks, I’ve been looking for relevant stuff on St. Barnabbas Day. Come June 11, I’ll probably be postin’ on him myself. I’m sure old Barney would love how you represented him…Shalom

  12. Same as above. Sts. Bartholemew and Barnabas’ day is coming up and I googled St. Barnabas and surfed in. Great story! I don’t know the original, but now I’ll look it up.

  13. very nice. UCC from western NY, drawn to Barnabas by ELCA pocket calendar, and hey! “biblical footnotes” like this we need lifted up, explicated and offered as models of discipleship. Thanks for this, and for your work w/kids too.

  14. Trudy, thank you for a marvelous telling of St. Barnabas story. Good to read the comments by some of your students. Congratulations! I was a teacher for 16 years and now a priest in the Anglican Church (retired and re-employed). One of my churches is St. Barnabas Church. We are preparing for the 100th anniversary celebration in 2020. I’m using your blog to enlighten the committee about St. Barnabas at our first meeting tonight. I must look online for your other scripture stories.

  15. Barnaby Bright, Barnaby Bright, the longest day, the shortest night.

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