Week 5 - 14 May 2020
Today is the day the church commemorates St Matthias the apostle,
the one who was chosen to replace Judas.
After the demise of Judas, the disciples decided they needed someone to take his place
so they gathered together and prayed
23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus)
and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, "Lord, you know everyone's heart.
Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry,
which Judas left to go where he belongs." 26 Then they cast lots,
and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles. Acts 1:23-26
There are all sorts of interesting questions that may come to mind when we read this story.
The biggest one is this: why did they need to replace Judas?
After all, later in the story of the early Christian community, the apostles died,
and they weren't replaced in this very deliberate way.
But when this story occurred Jesus had just ascended into Heaven.
The apostles returned to the upper room for prayer and for consideration of what to do next.
Shortly after this moment the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost.
Somehow, it was important that there be twelve apostles;
the number twelve, an important, powerful number;
Jesus had chosen twelve apostles to symbolise the re-establishment of the twelve tribes of Israel.
But who should they choose?
There were lots of candidates. At the top of anyone's list might be Jesus' brothers,
such as James the Just, and there were other people who were part of the circle of followers of the Lord.
But instead, Peter said there were certain criteria:
the replacement apostle must be
"one of the men who have accompanied us
during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken from us -
one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection." Acts 1:21
That was a pretty small group, perhaps only the two men whom Peter
set before the assembled disciples for election: Barsabbas and Matthias.
We know nothing of these two men except that they met the qualifications that Peter stipulated.
So the disciples prayed and asked God to show them whom they should choose.
And then they used an ancient method of choosing - not an election, what we would expect - they cast lots.
If there had been an election, it would have been a human choice,
votes by the people in that room. But casting lots?
That was an Old Testament way of giving God a way to convey his desire;
throwing dice would put the solution into God's hands, not their own.
The dice told of God's will, Matthias was chosen.
Not because of any particular skill, just because he had been a part of the journey all along,
and God chose him. Having been chosen, Matthias disappears from the story;
this is the last we hear of him in the Bible.
He fulfills his role as the twelfth apostle, so that there will be twelve at the miracle of Pentecost,
and then he does whatever he does, in service to the Lord, in obscurity.
Just like the rest of us whom God calls.
I suppose the point of it all this for me we are all replacements for the originals,
several hundred generations removed.
We usually discount our gifts and abilities, and yet God still finds a way to use us,
and gives us gifts which are sufficient for the task he asks of us.
It is tempting for us to think, "Well, I'm not sufficiently gifted to do that kind of work,
or to replace any of these saintly apostles of Sunday School teaching."
and ignore God's promptings to help out.
But God expects us all to be replacement apostles,
and gives us what we need to do the task he offers us.
But what of Joseph called Barsabbas?
I often wondered how he felt about being passed over by God.
Was he angry, dismayed, did he go off in a huff and disassociate himself from the group?
Or was he secretly relieved and continue to love God and work as a follower of The Way
to bring about the kingdom of heaven here on earth?
We shall never know, but I like to think it would be the latter.
Who do you feel you are?
A Matthias or a Joseph?
Whichever one do you identify with consider how you might be one of God's messengers
in this place and at this time.
Are you meant to be someone who tells about God's love?
Maybe···Are you meant to be someone who writes an article for the newsletter?
Maybe···Are you meant to be someone who offers a warm welcome to a newcomer to this parish family?
Maybe···Only God knows when he will ask you to step up and be a replacement apostle.
Only God knows the hidden strengths and gifts that you didn't even know that you had.
But only you can say, "Yes, Lord."
Say it, with fear and joy, say it with conviction, and be the replacement apostle that God knows you to be!