I am fortunate that my Sunday school teachers pointed out to me
Biblical passages like the ones in Psalms 67: 2-3, 5, 6, and 8 when I was
a child. We read responsively the Psalms every Sunday in my rural Iowa
German Lutheran Sunday school. And back in those days, we were required
to memorize a lot of them. So the first thing that came to mind when
I read the lessons for today was how familiar were those words about God’s
shining face, blessing us, guiding us toward salvation.
In fact, all of the lessons for today are familiar. But they take
on new meanings as I grow older and grow in faith. To me the story
of the prophets and teachers called Barnabas and Saul is a story about how
the Holy Spirit calls us and sends us to be agents of God’s word. And
in the Gospel message, Jesus reminds us that he was called and sent to be
an agent of the word of God. Especially at this time of year, when
we are still reveling in the joyous news of the resurrection, how can we
too help but feel called and sent to be agents of the word?
But there are some other very familiar words in this passage. Jesus
says, “for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.”
I’ve heard that before too. In John 3:16-17, the passage that was assigned
to me at my confirmation, we hear these words, “for God came into the world,
not to condemn the world, but that we might be saved.” I’ve always been
taught that being an agent of the word means that we too, like Jesus, should
be messengers of light and not condemnation. But it is tempting at
times, for me, to pass my pitiful human judgment on those who don’t observe
the light. Last Sunday at worship was a case in point. Where were all
those people who sat there on Easter morning, soaking in the light?
Did they go back to living in the darkness? Thank God, that is not my
problem. How much more wonderful to be called to be agents of words
about God’s shining face, God’s blessing, God’s salvation, than to speak some
grim drivel about condemnation.