Ah, the last battle of the First Round is finally upon us. Barnabas vs. Elmo. Or, as the Supreme Executive Committee, has dubbed it, Barney vs. Elmo. It's a furry red and purple Lenten miracle!
Yesterday, on the Lent Madness version of Super Tuesday, Frances Joseph-Gaudet left John Mason Neale singing the blues as she handily defeated him 68% to 32% to advance to the Saintly Sixteen, where she'll face Sojourner Truth.
All the voting excitement of Super Tuesday didn't keep the Forward Movement staff from having a bit of fun, as you can see with our Barney vs. Elmo banner, fashioned by Michael Phillips in between designing book covers and websites. No word on whether he's putting his skills to work on a Tim vs. Scott meme.
Tomorrow the long-anticipated Round of the Saintly Sixteen begins. But first it's time to vote and put the final nail in the first round coffin (don't worry -- we firmly believe in resurrection).
Elmo, Bishop of Formium, was martyred in 303 in Italy. He is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. Also known as Erasmus, Elmo fled Formium during the Diocletian persecutions. Legend tells us an angel commanded Elmo to return and proclaim his faith.
During his journey back to Formium, he encountered two soldiers who inquired about his faith. When he confessed he was a Christian, Elmo was promptly arrested and tortured. Depending upon the source material, Elmo was bound in iron chains, put into a pit filled with snakes and worms, sprayed with boiling oil, covered with sulfur and/or molten metal, thrown into a barrel studded with spikes and rolled off the top of a mountain, drawn and quartered by horses, and/or seated and baked in an oven.
Miraculously, he survived this trial and was imprisoned but later freed by an angel. He journeyed to Lycia, where he preached and baptized 10,000. News of this vast conversion enraged Diocletian. Elmo was arrested, enduring more torture and humiliation.
Ultimately, Elmo was martyred by being disemboweled. He is the patron saint of those suffering from intestinal maladies and sailors.
Elmo is also associated with Saint Elmo’s fire, a weather phenomenon involving electrical excitement of the exotic matter state of plasma. This creates a coronal effect during thunderstorms that sailors associate with his protective presence.
Collect for Elmo
Almighty God, who labors with us through the waters of birth and all life’s voyages, we offer you thanks and praise for the life and ministry of Saint Elmo. Help us, in our own day, to proclaim the good news of Jesus with integrity and courage, no matter the consequence. Make us lights of your great love to those who are lost. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Throughout Acts, Barnabas is a model of grace and compassion. In our first encounter with him, he is singled out among the believers as one who sold a field that belonged to him and laid the proceeds at the apostles’ feet. Barnabas is the first to welcome Saul/Paul to the community in Jerusalem. Although the other disciples shunned Saul/Paul out of fear that he had not really become a disciple, Barnabas vouched for him and allayed their fears.
Perhaps nothing speaks to Barnabas’s graciousness so much as his ability to work with the notoriously prickly Apostle Paul. After welcoming Saul into the community in Jerusalem, Barnabas went to Antioch to lead the church there. He invited Saul (now known as Paul) to co-pastor the community. They worked together in Antioch for one year. According to Acts, Paul’s so-called “First Missionary Journey” was actually not Paul’s at all. Acts lists Barnabas first, as the one set apart for the journey. In one particularly telling episode, the residents of Lystra describe Barnabas as Zeus and Paul as Hermes.
When they return to Jerusalem to report on their journeys, Barnabas is again listed first as they tell of “all the signs and wonders that God had done among the Gentiles” (Acts 15:12). After this first journey together, Paul and Barnabas part ways on account of a “sharp” disagreement. Even the kindest of people have limits.
According to tradition, Barnabas continued traveling and teaching, ultimately dying as a martyr in Salamis in 61 CE. Barnabas was taken prisoner in the night. A rope was tied around his neck, and he was dragged from the synagogue to the hippodrome where he was, depending on the source, either stoned or burned to death.
Collect for Barnabas
Grant, O God, that we may follow the example of your faithful servant Barnabas, who, seeking not his own renown but the well-being of your Church, gave generously of his life and substance for the relief of the poor and the spread of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.