The Last Day of School

Today, for many of the children and teens in our church community, is the last day of school. Tests are completed, desks and lockers cleaned out, and "goodbyes" and "thank-yous" are spoken from students to teachers - "goodbyes" and "thank-yous" that may surprise the students themselves as they speak them, by revealing a student's sudden deep sense of gratitude, or a tender memory of having been encouraged by the teacher at an important moment, or an inner acknowledgement of the hard work done by the teacher all year to bring out the best in him or her.

And teachers and administrators, in addition to feeling, perhaps, a large wave of relief (and a promise to themselves to have a really relaxing weekend!), may also find themselves filled with gratitude as they recall some of the many, many moments during the year when their long hours of work, their gifts and knowledge, and their continual encouragement opened a door of new possibility for a student.

No matter what our vocations or areas of responsibility are, surprising, gently life-shaping things can happen when we dare to use our daily opportunities to see and name and encourage the good, the gifts, the best in others.

The early Christians, filled with that Pentecost awareness of the Spirit of God being deeply at work in them, and among them, noticed how important it was to give attention to the spiritual work of encouraging one another. Woven through the Book of Acts is the story of Barnabas, a person who ended up being much less well known than Paul or Peter or Timothy or James, but whose work of encouragement made a great difference in the strength and growth of the Church - so much so, that some Christians today observe June 11 as "St. Barnabas Day." We'll look at one episode of his adventures this Sunday, from Acts 11:19-30, where he is something like a first-century version of a "Talent Scout."

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