Acts 13:1-12(The Message)
The congregation in Antioch was blessed with a number of prophet-preachers and teachers:
Simon, nicknamed Niger,
Lucius the Cyrenian,
Manaen, an advisor to the ruler Herod,
One day as they were worshiping God—they were also fasting as they waited for guidance—the Holy Spirit spoke: “Take Barnabas and Saul and commission them for the work I have called them to do.”
3 So they commissioned them. In that circle of intensity and obedience, of fasting and praying, they laid hands on their heads and sent them off.
Sent off on their new assignment by the Holy Spirit, Barnabas and Saul went down to Seleucia and caught a ship for Cyprus. The first thing they did when they put in at Salamis was preach God’s Word in the Jewish meeting places. They had John along to help out as needed.They traveled the length of the island, and at Paphos came upon a Jewish wizard who had worked himself into the confidence of the governor, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man not easily taken in by charlatans. The wizard’s name was Bar-Jesus. He was as crooked as a corkscrew.
The governor invited Barnabas and Saul in, wanting to hear God’s Word firsthand from them. But Dr. Know-It-All (that’s the wizard’s name in plain English) stirred up a ruckus, trying to divert the governor from becoming a believer. But Saul (or Paul), full of the Holy Spirit and looking him straight in the eye, said, “You bag of wind, you parody of a devil—why, you stay up nights inventing schemes to cheat people out of God. But now you’ve come up against God himself, and your game is up. You’re about to go blind—no sunlight for you for a good long stretch.” He was plunged immediately into a shadowy mist and stumbled around, begging people to take his hand and show him the way. When the governor saw what happened, he became a believer, full of enthusiasm over what they were saying about the Master.
One of my favorite groups is a group called Improv Everywhere. Yes, if you have been on my blog before you know I reference them once or twice a season. They keep coming up with such great stuff! This is a group whose sole purpose is to make people recognize things out of the ordinary. They want to create spaces of entertainment and joy. The folks who started Improv Everywhere wanted an experience in New York that would cause people to laugh and enjoy the absurd in the ordinary. They enlisted some friends and began flashmob like improv around the city. They asked people to sign up as their “agents.” If you sign up to be an agent in New York you get emails about what “missions” will be happening next. You can then choose to show up at whatever time and place and the mission is laid out for you. One of the videos I was watching this morning illustrates that pretty well….
In this particular mission, the agents are to shop in Slow Motion in a Home Depot for five minutes. There really isn’t a goal but to pull off the mission. You get to see the set up and how people react. Some of my other favorite missions include synchronized swimming in a Central Park fountain or giving out high fives in the subway or dancing in windows of a shopping center. Check them out.
What strikes me today about this group is that agents are sent out to do the work. There is very little hold on the control of the mission. Charlie, the leader, lays out what is to be done and then the agents carry it all out. The outcome is due to the agents of the improv.
While these newly commissioned leaders aren’t being sent off for improv in our scripture this morning, they are certainly being sent out to do work that is unsure of the outcome. This morning’s reading from Acts is quite the story! There is intrigue, action, dark and light, and probably some improv involved as they figure out what it means to be commissioned leaders in the new Christian world. This is the stuff of a really great storyline. God knows that God’s work can’t be done just by a few leaders but a continuing pool of leaders who can speak God’s word. They are called to the task, are tested, and shine with God’s guidance.
What if we interacted in the world as agents of God’s call? What if we walked around thinking that we were called to a new kind of improv everywhere? Only this time, it was a call to talk about God’s love and peace. What if we were commissioned (like we are) to spread the kingdom of God here and now? How would that change your perspective in the world? How would it frame your experiences?
Go ahead, give it a try….