November 1 – Why I Love Saint “I Don’t Know”

Happy All Saints Day.  While Protestants tend to be minimalists when it comes to the saints and their days, we do well to remember our bond with Christian brothers and sisters in all times and all places.  For all the saints who from their labors rest…thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.

As minimalists, then, we don’t have to worry much about patron saints, keeping track of their days and their feasts.  But on this All Saints Day, 2019, I think I’ll declare Barnabas my patron saint for at least the day.

When we first meet Barnabas in Acts 4, we learn that his given name is Joseph and that the leaders of the early church give him Barnabas – Son of Encouragement in Aramaic – as a nickname.  Living up to his nickname, we meet Barnabas again in Acts 9 when he encourages the church to welcome their one-time arch enemy Saul of Tarsus into their fellowship as a follower of Jesus now called Paul.

I don’t know how you’d say “connector” in Aramaic, but Barnabas was a connector in the sense of the word as used by organizational guru Malcolm Gladwell – “Connectors are individuals who have ties in many different realms and act as conduits between them, helping to engender connections, relationships, and ‘cross-fertilization’ that otherwise might not have ever occurred.”

Once in awhile I get to play the role of a Barnabas – I don’t have much to say or advice to give, but I know where or to whom to direct that person who has come to me. Like Barnabas who connected a fearful church with a former enemy now turned friend, I sometimes say, “I don’t know, but I think I know someone who does.”

Sons and daughters of encouragement often begin conversations with “I don’t know, but I think I know someone who does…”  And then they do the good work of connecting two strangers or two friends who did not know that about the other, and God does good things.

“I don’t know” is a hard thing for some of us to say.  We want to know and we want to be thought of as someone who knows.  Not just a jack of all trades, we want to be an expert in all things.  How tedious I become when I think I need to know everything or pretend I do.  Barnabas says, “I don’t know, but I may know someone who does.”

I’ve had a couple of Barnabas moments in the past few weeks, “I don’t know, but may know someone who does…” “I don’t know, but” is a great way to begin a sentence.

Lord, spare me from thinking I need to know.

Happy All Saints Day!  I’ll pray this All Saints Day that we all might find and maybe be a Saint Barnabas.