Sermon: The Feast of St. Matthias

Acts 1:15-26

Philippians 3:13-21

John 15:1,6-16

Psalm 15

The Collect

Almighty God, who in the place of Judas chose your faithful servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve: Grant that your Church, being delivered from false apostles, may always be guided and governed by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

“Which disciple replaced Judas?” is a classic pub trivia question. It wasn’t Paul, at least not officially. It was Matthias. We don’t know much about the replacement apostle Matthias. Just what was in those verses from Acts. Matthias had been with Jesus the whole time. He was faithful. And that he was not the only one with those qualifications. There was at least one other, Joseph called Barsabbas surnamed Justus, but probably there were more more, those were just the two who were chosen as good candidates for one of the 12. 

At least we get that for Matthias. Some of the other of the 12 don’t even get that much airtime. Just a name in the list. I mean, I would rather be one of the nondescript apostles than have the infamy of Judas. But it is interesting that Peter wants to make sure there are 12 apostles, a set roster that everyone knows, even if there are more candidates or disciples who are qualified. Even if some of the non-12 disciples of Jesus do end up being more famous. Like Paul or Stephen. Having a team of 12 was important enough that during those last few days between Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the apostles come up with a plan to choose a new member of their leadership team. 

I wonder what it would be like, instead of the system we have of contentious elections in every aspect of political and community life, if we were to trust God’s Providence so much that we leave the final decision up to chance. Like, imagine an election where only the nominations were the decision of people. The final decision between nominees was made by casting lots. We would have to trust that everyone who was nominated would be fit for the role. We don’t like to give up that last bit of control over society.  

I will be voting in the California primary election on March 5. We don’t yet have the system in place where we can leave the result up to chance. But I wonder what the world would be like if we could. And I wonder what we would have to do as a society to get to the point where every election does not feel like a choice between extremes and dire outcomes. Could we ever get to a place where we nominate two people who have been faithful from the beginning, either of whom would serve the community well?

In our last presidential election, we had people trying to overturn the election violently. That is not what happened with this apostle election. I wonder if there was disappointment on the side of Joseph called Barsabbas,… but there was no contention. The story doesn’t end with Joseph leaving the disciples either. They all continued with the work of the gospel. Matthias just took the 12th place among the apostles.

How were they able to do this? Able to have a whole election where the decision was out of their hands and there was no fallout in the community?

Jesus tells his disciples that he is the true vine, and that the branches must abide in him. This is how we bear fruit. We can’t do it alone. We can only live in fruitful community insofar as we are connected to and through the true vine. That means loving one another as Jesus loves us. The greatest love is to lay down your life for those you love. Love is laying down your own personal concerns for the good of your friends.

The love of friends is not like winning votes and support in a political campaign. That is how the election of Matthias succeeded. Matthias didn’t campaign for the apostles’ love and vote. He and Joseph laid down their lives, their egos, and put everything into God’s hands.

It was only by abiding in Jesus that they could do this. It was only by trusting in God so much that their egos disappeared and their love bore fruit. Jesus no longer calls them servants, but friends.

When the apostles nominated Matthias, when his name came up for an apostle, maybe everyone thought it was going to be a historic position, that his fame would spread throughout the lands like how Peter or John or even our own St. James ended up. But we don’t hear hardly anything in the scriptures about Matthias. Just his acceptance of a call to apostleship. But that is enough. We know that to accept apostleship is to abide in Jesus, to bear fruit through that connection to the true vine. It is is not about persuading people to put you into a leadership position as if they are your servants. It is about laying down your life for those you call friends.

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