December 1, 2016

Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19

Isaiah 4:2-6

Acts 1:12-17, 21-26

And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

[Acts 1:26]

The reading from the book of Acts tells the story of the selection of Matthias, the apostle chosen to replace Judas Iscariot among the twelve. Nothing else is known about Matthias in Scripture outside of this account of his selection.

Matthias is an obscure, unknown figure, almost a footnote, who only rates a verse or two in the Book of Acts. To be an apostle of Jesus Christ, one has to wonder why he gets such noticeably shabby treatment. Perhaps it’s because he was a late addition, a replacement for the most heinous of the apostles at that. It would be worth reading the three verses left out of our lesson. (In case you’re curious, they’re not pretty. They describe the death of Judas.)

Sheep knuckles were most commonly used in casting lots.
Sheep knuckles were most commonly used in casting lots.

How Matthias was chosen also seems odd. They cast lots. But that wasn’t quite as inconsequential as it would appear. Casting lots was a practice used in those days when important decisions needed to be made but there was not enough guidance that had already been provided through wisdom and/or Scripture. To put it in modern terms, “a roll of the dice.” The apostles saw it, however, as a revelation of God’s will.

I can’t help but read these verses and recall my election as bishop. Even now, two years and three months into my call, there are days when I have moments of extreme uncertainty, asking myself, “Why didn’t I drop out when I had the chance?”

But it is in times like those that I recall the words of Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, who spoke to us the second day of our week at Bishop’s Formation School. She said, “Remember you were the one who was called by the Spirit and elected by the church.” “Remember you were the one who was called by the Spirit and elected by the church.”

I think most of us can identify with Matthias.  Most of us have walk-on parts in life. We probably won’t make into Wikipedia, and probably won’t rate a full-page obituary in The New York Times. However, when God chooses you and Jesus calls you to fulfill God’s mission, who you are makes no difference.

Like Matthias, we may (or may not) at one point in our life, experience “fifteen minutes of fame.”  But in that quarter hour, and indeed in every moment that God gives us breath, each and every one of us can respond to God’s call to build up Christ’s Body, the Church.  We are entrusted with sharing his word of grace, love, and forgiveness in every way available to us. 

God continues God’s revelation through us.  We are God’s people.  Our place with God has been made sure through our Lord Jesus Christ. We are reminded of that each week when we approach the Lord’s Table and receive His body and blood. 

Gracious God, we thank you for Matthias and all your servants and witnesses of times past. In your mercy, fill us with the wisdom of your Spirit, that we may know your purpose and live to your glory. Give us as you gave them, the courage to proclaim your name without fear and the faith to serve you with gladness. Amen


Published by pastorallende

Retired Bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Social justice and immigration reform advocate. Micah 6:8. Fluent in English and Spanish. I enjoy music and sports.

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