Sermon for May 13: I Am Matthias

 I Am Matthias

Easter VII; May 13, 2018

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

This Sunday's sermon was a dramatic monologue; I removed my pectoral Cross and stole and covered my head to suggest a costume.

I am Matthias. Until you heard the Scripture read a few minutes ago, you probably had never heard of me. My name means "a gift from the Lord," which tells you something about how my parents felt about me. I am an Apostle of Jesus.

I'm the Apostle in the shadows. Peter, our leader after Jesus' Ascension, believed there needed to be twelve Apostles, just as there were twelve tribes of Israel. Jesus had appointed twelve, and with the death of Judas Iscariot, the leaders needed somebody to replace him.

I was there from the beginning. At first, I was a disciple of John the Baptist. I helped him with baptisms, listened to people's stories, learned from him. When his cousin Jesus came to the River to be baptized, I was there. I didn't see the Holy Spirit come upon him and I didn't hear the voice that said, "This is my Son, my beloved," but I did hear John say, "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" So, at John's suggestion, I went with Jesus after that.

When Jesus started teaching, such as his famous Sermon on the Mount, I heard the whole thing. I saw him cast the demon out of the little boy and saw him raise that young man from Nain from the dead. I was with the crowd when he healed the woman with the hemorrhage and waited outside the house, with the others, when he raised Jairus' daughter from the dead. When he decided to select twelve from our group to be the ones he called Apostles, I was not chosen. But I was among the seventy that he sent out to announce the coming of the Kingdom of God.

Now, there were quite a few others who were there all that time, as well: Joseph Barsabbas, for example. Mary Magdalene and Salome were there for most of it. And we were all there when he came to us after his Resurrection, when he asked for food and ate with us, and we were all there when he was taken away from us with the promise that he would come again.

When you heard the story of how I was chosen, you probably thought it was an odd way to choose a leader. Peter asked for nominees, and said the qualification was it had to be someone who had been with Jesus from the beginning to the end, from his Baptism to his Ascension. That narrowed the field, but there were still quite a few of us to choose from, and the Church nominated me and Joseph Barsabbas. Then they prayed that God would show us God's choice, and cast lots. That was how we gave God the chance to reveal God's will: we would take two stones or bits of wood, with different markings, and draw one out. Whichever one we drew was God's will.

Yes, you think that's an odd way to choose leaders, but is your way better? You have elections, in which you pick the person who makes the best promises or is most popular. Is that necessarily God's will?

Well, whatever you think of the process, it worked for us, and so I was named an Apostle. And that's probably the last you've heard of me. Others who were called Apostles had not been around as long as I had, had not been with Jesus, had not seen him work, but got to be much better known. Yes, I'm thinking of Paul. He was not one of us from the beginning, but he did have a remarkable experience and the Lord Jesus did obviously choose him, so it's right to call him an Apostle. And he wrote an awful lot of your New Testament, so he should be honored for that too. I wrote a book too, but it's mostly been forgotten.

I am the Apostle for all of you who have hung in there from the beginning, but who never get your names in the bulletin or never make a big splash in the Church. You were baptized, you studied the Word, you were with the Lord year after year from his Baptism through his Crucifixion and his Resurrection, right up to the celebration of Pentecost and then all those months that are just pretty ordinary. Maybe you help clean windows or you plant flowers at the Church; you make soup for the poor or you look after children. You tithe, giving sacrificially from your income because, well, that's what Christians do. You have taught your own children to pray – maybe "God is great, God is good…" or "God bless Mommy and Daddy and Aunt Maria…" – and you say hello to other people's children. You help in the kitchen when prisoners or neighbors come to dinner and when you make the promise to nurture Christian faith in someone newly baptized you don't always know what you can do but you know that you mean it. People may not say your name right along with the leaders of the choir and the Elders and Deacons or those who lead projects and campaigns, but you help, you participate, you are there.

I am your Apostle.

Let me suggest two things to you, especially to you who are like me but also to everyone here. First, remember what Peter said my job was to be: to be a witness, with the others, to Christ's resurrection. So I suggest that you stop and take a moment, every day, to notice Christ's resurrection. Maybe in the morning when you see the sun low in the sky, you can thank God that just as the sun is risen so is Christ risen and ask Christ to be part of your day. Or maybe at lunch time, you can remember how Christ ate and drank with us after he was raised from the dead. Or if you take a moment's break from your work or your play you can remember how Christ told us all to watch for him to come again. Or before you go to bed at night you could ask yourself how you noticed Christ as part of your day. You can probably think of other things. Be a witness to Christ's resurrection; the first step is to notice Christ's resurrection in your own life.

And I have a suggestion from the little book I wrote, the one that is mostly forgotten. I wrote, "Wonder at what is before you."[1] The beginning of all knowledge, the knowledge of anything that matters, is to wonder. I wonder what is behind that door. I wonder how a cell processes energy. I wonder how a microwave oven works. I wonder what my friend really cares about. I wonder who God is.

I wondered who this man was, the one whom John pointed at and said, "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." I wondered what made John say that, so I began to follow him. And I wondered who were the peacemakers when he said, "Blessed are the peacemakers." And I wondered what he meant when he said he would be crucified and raised from the dead. When he ate and drank with us after his Resurrection, I wondered what it all meant. And when we stood on the hilltop, after he had been taken away, and we stared into the sky, angels told us that he would come back, and I wondered, "What happens now?"

Well, this is what happened: I became an Apostle. And I am still wondering at what is before me. I wonder at what the Church has done for all those centuries: because of Christ's Church there are schools and clinics and places where people can get food and shelter. Because people have heard the Gospel that we Apostles preached the world is an immeasurably better place, even for those who do not know or even care about Jesus. It is a wonder. There is so much wrong, as well, and I wonder at that too, but most of all I wonder at all that God has done.

So yes, "Wonder at what is before you." I wonder: what now?

Robert A. Keefer

Presbyterian Church of the Master

Omaha, Nebraska


[1] From "The Traditions of Matthias," quoted in Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, II.9. Whether Matthias really wrote it or not is immaterial; it worked for the monologue.

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