St. Mathias.19 “The Lot Fell…” Is. 66:1-2, Acts 1:15-26, Matt. 11:25-30
I love all the saints’ days, which is why we’re looking at St. Mathias today, because Feb 24 is his day on the church calendar. I love them because the saints are just like us except more so. But why Mathias (not Matthew, the Gospel writer, but Mathias—the guy who was elected to fill Judas’ vacant spot)? What’s special about him? Well… that’s what we want to see, isn’t it? Nothing really, special about him, except the lot fell on him. And that made all the difference.
There were only 120 disciples in church that Feast Day of Pentecost (I don’t think the True Church is ever much larger than a hundred or so out of hundreds of thousands, really—that Cross business really culls the herd). And notice how much their every move is according to Scriptures! Peter says: “the Scriptures must be fulfilled—that Judas fell and that his place be empty and yet taken by another”—weird paradox there! Was Judas’ office vacant, or filled? Lutheran Yes! Matthias filled it, but his presence does not expand the number beyond 11. Interesting!
I would also point out that the Preaching Office is not filled by a guy in Rome with a big white hat appointing some crony. No. Matthias is elected by the whole congregation (the Greek “cast lots” is literally “gave the hand”, i.e.… voting!) By taking away the right of sheep to elect their shepherds, Rome has gone flat against the Scriptures (though Lutherans do it too, by sheer indifference!)—to the ruin of those congregations. Why the debacle of abuse in the Roman Church doesn’t lead them to tell the Pope to shove off and have the churches elect their own pastors I will never understand! These are solvable problems(!)—and the solution starts by following the Scriptures, throwing the bums out, and electing Christian men who meet the biblical criteria for office which is: married (just one time!) with children (who are reasonably ruly), long-time Christians, apt to teach, not drinkers, not brawlers, not greedy for money, having thoroughly having grasped the Scriptures, Word-smiths. Anyhow…
I suppose we could romanticize and imagine that there were a bunch of guys who fit the apostolic criteria Peter apostolically sums up as: “men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the Baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us… to be a witness (martyr, literally, in Greek!) with us of His Resurrection” and that they did interviews to see which of many was really the best.
But… my simple-minded reading of the text suggests maybe they could only come up with two guys who fit the bill of hanging with Jesus and the apostles all the time, those three years. I imagine the interview of potential candidates for the position went something like this: “So, Fred: what do you remember about the Sermon on the Mount?” Fred: “He preached a sermon on a mountain? Huh! I think I had to work that day.” Thanks for coming in! “So, Boris: what’s your favorite parable of the Lord’s?” Boris: “I guess the one where the steward steals the widow’s mite, but then the steward flees to a far country and invests the mite wisely and brings back thousandfold cash to widow he stole from; and with joy she forgave him, and they killed the fatted calf, and made merry?”* Thanks for coming in! “So, Matthias: just so we’re clear? You spent the last 3 years just traipsing after Jesus, On the Road, soaking up everything He said and did?” Matthias: “Um, well…” “You had no job, no family responsibilities to occupy you?” Matthias: “Um, well…” “You just dropped everything and followed Jesus like some slacker-surfer dude or Dead-Head?!!!” Matthias: “Um, well…” OK! We’ll be in touch…
I, personally, think Matthias won the vote just because guys with a lot of different names, “Joseph, aka Barsabas, aka Justus.. aka” Well! Those guys usually have their pictures up in the post office. Which is to say (by modern standards for successful job applicants!) these two are no great shakes. Sorry if I’m busting some balloons here! But our Old Testament lesson suggests being a bit of a slacker-down-and-outer is the main qualification for the job(!). We don’t build God a house, or a Kingdom. He isn’t looking for builders. His hand has made all things! The Lord says “On this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My Word…” Down. Out. Big into the Word….
So, God is looking for someone more like Jack Kerouac than someone like Bill Gates? Someone without ambition, who isn’t going to build a monopolistic empire, get rich by legalistic rent-seeking on glitchy products, but someone who’ll drop everything and hit the Road to follow after people who interest him—charismatic drifters like Neal Cassidy who don’t lead to “respectable hours, regular checkups, Sunday brunch with the Times, but to a beautiful flare of ruin, loss… to a heartbreaking and much larger Beauty that you can spend your whole life looking for and never find?”** Well, pretty much!
What kind of a guy would drop everything, family, job, all social responsibility and go hit the Road for 3 years, chasing after an itinerant Rabbi-carpenter who says He’s God(!!!) and has a Kingdom to share with the poor, contrite, who tremble with awe at the Word? Well, the future Apostle Mathias, for one! Joseph (with all the aliases!) for another! Maybe you? Maybe me?
“So, Matthias: what do you have to say for yourself? Why would you drop everything respectable to hit the Road with a strange Messiah?” “Well, I didn’t have anything better going for me! I was poor, miserable, and I heard the Voice of Jesus say: “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest!” And He does! “Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls” And I did! “For My yoke is easy and My burden, light…” And it is!”
“Look: I like to read, love a good Story. And Jesus’ Story, well… I know IT alone’s destined for autocracy. It won’t be fitted into any other story we tell. His Story alone rules, absorbs all other stories, all other worlds, into His own. Plus, just looking at Him the first day, I knew it was all True—everything Scriptures say about Him!” “So, Matthias: you just dropped everything and did nothing for three years but soak up the Word?!!” “Well, um…”
And that’s my guy! Who wouldn’t vote for him as Apostle?! Lots of people, obviously. But the lot fell on Matthias. And I, personally, would drop everything right now to hit the Road with him if he popped in and said he knows the Way to go. “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden…” And is your life so great, really? Have you got so much going for you? Has chasing stability, health, wealth, job security turned out so great? Can you not imagine a better Life? A grander Adventure? A larger Beauty?
“Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me…” The cross is one heavy freaking yoke (by worldly reckoning!) but Matthias will tell you, apostolically: “His yoke is easy. His burden is light.” What have you won by your hard scrabbling besides misery and woe? OK! What you gain by losing all, yoked to Christ, by faith alone in the Cross is your Soul’s Rest—a Kingdom of forgiveness of sin, life—of joy beyond telling. Today, Mathias’ lovely Christian lot falls on you; let it be for you a fresh start, a new Road, of Peace, surpassing understanding, guarding heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.
The portions marked * and** are quotes from Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch”. You should read it.