In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said, “Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus—for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their language Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) “For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his homestead become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it’; and ‘Let another take his position of overseer.’ So 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 up from us—one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.
WOW- right? I mean, here we go. Here's a story of the disciples- our earliest role models, making a decision.... they have to replace Judas- the "defector" as some translations name him. They need to replace him so that the ministry structure Jesus had set up would continue. Now, the number 12 is thought to represent the 12 tribes of Israel, and Jesus was setting up a "new Israel" so that 12 number had to remain a constant in order for the symbolism to work... and that's probably true- But look deeper... they needed a 12th person so that someone could do his job in the ministry- someone had to do what the scriptures call, "his share." We can infer then, that there were very specific jobs done by each of the apostles- not like we usually think about this group of Jesus's friends. In general, we think of them kind of as a collective. Each one has their personality quirks; the one Jesus loved, or Peter who shoots from the hip, or Thomas who doubts... but for the most part, we imagine the disciples all doing basically the same thing- but this passage leads us to think differently about this. Each disciple must have had a unique position in what would become the church. Which would make a great study, wouldn't it? To try to figure that out? And that definitely has implications for our backyard... but that's for another day. We know from other passages in scripture that Judas's role was to handle the money- he was the treasurer-one of the most trusted positions in the ministry. So now, in search of a new treasurer, the disciples decide this most important appointment... by rolling the dice. By casting lots. One-two-three-shoot- Rock, paper, scissors.
Yes, yes,I know, they prayed first, and asked God to make the dice come up with a perfect seven, but after that, they leave the decision to chance... to fate. Paper beats rock- Matthias wins! Or did they, perhaps, trust God so deeply to be involved with the human process that God's will would be done- no matter what? Obviously so... Katheryn Matthews writes: "In all circumstances, the followers of Jesus put their faith in God and trust God to direct their next moves. That is how the discernment of a replacement for Judas is seen, made with the guidance of God, before the great event of Pentecost, with the Spirit guiding them."
And... that's nice and all... but I don't know if I am comfortable with that- It reminds me of my Presbyterian roots- of predestination and all of that.... I mean- does my input into the decisions I make- or that we as a church makes as a group really matter? And what about those decisions that I’ve made that clearly were wrong? That turned out horribly, even though I sought God, and trusted God and felt like I had discerned what God wanted me to do! What about my desires- the things I want to do- or the things I feel I'm good at- the things I want to go for; the plans I have for my future- or for the church's future!
Because every day here we make decisions- from who might be called to be on the Leadership team, to who to call when we have a leak in the kitchen. We discern our mission, our vision, how to spend money, what missions to support, how to utilize physical resources- and where to expend energy. Yesterday at work day, each person who came to work had to decide where they were most needed, where their skill set met the greatest need on the list of "to do's." This morning before you entered worship (once you decided to come to church) you had to decide who you would interact with, whether you would stop in the lounge for coffee, whether you would sit in your regular seat, or with someone you don't know very well.
Some of these decisions, sure, we judge to be more important than others- but each decision we make here can be life changing, for ourselves and for our community of faith when you think about it. But now, we look at the disciples and here, they pray, and God's will be done, regardless of what number comes up on the dice... Howard, that's how we'll pick hymns next week... we’ll pray, and then roll em!
Except we're missing one crucial piece in this whole thing... the fact that (wait for it) God knows our hearts. God knows us better than we know ourselves. God see's through all the facades we put up, sees around our walls, beyond our pretense and into the center of who we really are- God created us- knows our shortcomings, our addictions, our sin... God knows the shame that we carry, the hurts we've endured and the reluctance to trust anyone but ourselves. God loves us anyway! In fact, knows us so well, that the parts of us that we would call defects of character, to borrow a term from 12 Step Recovery programs, God accepts- God uses- God loves.
Matthias and Barsabbas both felt they had a call from God to fill this vacancy in the ministry. Both of them made themselves vulnerable enough to admit their calling. Both of them trusted, no doubt, that they would be the one chosen by the group. Yet, the lots fell to Matthias- great. So if you are Barsabbas, where does that leave you?
It leaves you with God... right where you started. IS there disappointment? Perhaps. A sense of call doesn't always come with happy, fun feelings. And we can take a step toward God, and God can instantly re-direct that step. But what both Barsabbas and Matthias were doing was putting themselves in God's hands. Both of them were trusting in God's will for their lives. Both of them believed that whether this one appointment worked out or not, that God was still using them- that they were a part of something bigger than themselves. They were confident in the one who would be with them no matter what- that there are no winners or losers when it comes to God's love- there is no "better" call than any other. And that, even when we, as humans, make a decision, even when we have sought God, and prayed, and listened for the Holy Spirit to guide us, sometimes we still choose the wrong way- but listen- God never chooses wrong- and God chose you! And no matter what way you choose, God is right by your side...that never changes. So how do we know what to do?
When I used to do vocational counseling I used to tell people, deciding something is like being in a hallway filled with doors on both sides. And God says... "ok Honey, pick a door." And you ask God, which one shall I pick? Which is the right one? And perhaps you hear God say, go through this one, to the right... or maybe you hope you hear God say it, or maybe that door on the right has a big welcome wreath on it, and you're sure it's right. Or maybe... you just can't decide at all... and you stand there looking from door to do... fearful that you'll make the wrong choice and end up somewhere you don't want to be. We’ve all been there.
Listen, have confidence that God is with you, whatever door you choose. And when you go through the door, God will be with you, when you're on the other side of the door, no matter what lies in store, God is with you, and if you hate it out there, God will bring you back to the hallway to pick another door... together. There is no losing when you trust in God... because God never loses. Now- What does this mean for all of us- for our shared life in the backyard? 1. It means that we, collectively and individually, need to have confidence & trust... in the Holy Spirit. Notice I didn't say, "each other." Trusting in each other comes in time. Having confidence in each other takes just as long. That's why we don't start there. But in order to grow a community, we need trust, we need confidence, we need hope, amen? So while I may not trust in you... I trust the Spirit that lives in you- the Spirit that lives in all of us. I trust the Holy Spirit that stands in our midst every single day, prodding us, calling us, leading us. I have confidence that the Holy Spirit knows what's best for us, and has a plan for us that is bigger than ourselves.
2. It means that as we journey together toward being everything that God designed for us to be, that we will make mistakes. Sometimes we will make the wrong decisions. Sometimes we will live out consequences, because of those decisions, that hurt each other, or that cause the community to go into a spin. (Baby mobile) What one person does, affects the whole community.
3. What one does, affects the whole community. How different would the ministry of Jesus Christ look like if Barsabbas had gotten elected, instead of Matthias? We have no idea of knowing, but we can rest assured it would have looked more like the skills and gifts that Barsabbas had, than what we have now. And that goes for each of us. Every time we change even one person, on a committee, in a ministry, they add, shape and form us- they change us. And that FEELS different! 4. And lastly, know that we are all in God’s care no matter what. That our discernment begins and ends with knowing God so well that we recognize God’s voice in the room… confident in our going our and our coming in- that our openness, our vulnerability, our willingness to be led by God’s spirit comes from building a relationship with the God of Love- and living out that love with one another.