Worship for Sunday, May 16, 2021

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

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.” 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.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 1

Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,
nor lingered in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seats of the scornful!
Their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and they meditate on God’s teaching day and night.
 
They are like trees planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; everything they do shall prosper.
It is not so with the wicked;
they are like chaff which the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes,
nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked shall be destroyed. 
Amen.

1 John 5:9-13

If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son. Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son. And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint John 17:6-19

[Jesus prayed:] “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.”

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Over the past 7 weeks – incredibly dramatic – even downright shocking changes have rocked the disciples’ world.

First came their exciting – exhilarating – gloriously triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the very first Palm Sunday when it seemed like everyone in entire nation of Israel was singing Jesus’ praises. People finally got it! At last they were proclaiming Jesus to be their Lord and Savior!

But then just a few days later – their joy was crushed by Judas’ heartbreaking betrayal. Yes – Judas betrayed Jesus. But Judas betrayed the other disciples too . . .

All of this was followed by the horror of Jesus’ arrest – crucifixion and death.

For 2 horrible days the disciples mourned Jesus’ death. They were heartbroken – lost and so very – very alone in the world.

But then – with the dawn of the very first Easter morning – came the wildly wonderful news that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Jesus was alive! From death came life! From tragedy came hope! From sorrow came incredible joy!

For the next 40 days – the 11 remaining disciples spent time with Jesus.   Jesus taught and encouraged them.   And prepared them for what was to come.   And then – Jesus ascended into heaven to be with God the Father.

Now in our reading from the book of Acts – Peter realizes it is time for the disciples to get reorganized. The disciples have incredibly important work to do.

So Peter calls everyone together. The first order of business is to find a replacement for Judas whose betrayal and death left a huge gaping hole in their small community.

But before Peter takes any nominations – he lets folks know this job is for a mature Christian with a history of faithfulness. The new apostle should have witnessed Jesus’ baptism and worked with Jesus. This new apostle should have known and learned from Jesus.

After putting their heads together– they nominate two men for the job – Barsabbas and Matthias.

Once the nominations were closed – the church gathered for prayer and then they cast lots to see who would get the job. By casting lots they were seeking God’s will.

As far as I know – the only church that still casts lots to choose their church leadership is the Amish Church. (The rest of us resort to begging – pleading – tears – bribes and emotional blackmail!)

The Bible tells us the lot fell to Matthias.

Imagine – being called by God to fill the position vacated by Judas – the man who had betrayed the Savior of the world! Imagine the pressure Matthias must have felt to be an exceptionally faithful apostle.

But the thing is – Matthias is never mentioned in the Bible again – not even once. A few of the apostles like Peter and John are mentioned over and over again in the Bible. But we don’t really know what happened to the others like Philip – Thomas – Bartholomew – and Matthias.

Our lack of details about the rest of his life isn’t some sort of indictment of his abilities. Just because he didn’t become as famous as Peter and Paul doesn’t mean Matthias was a crummy apostle.

I think it is safe to assume that Matthias served God faithfully.   That Matthias shared the Good News of God’s grace – love – and mercy and did the work God called him to do. That Matthias got on with the job. Matthias answered God’s call to serve.

The world is full of Christians – who aren’t famous – but like Matthias – serve God faithfully and through their service make the world a much better place.

My own life has been touched by the powerful – yet humble ministry of countless – Christians. None of these folks are famous. Yet they have all blessed me – by sharing God’s grace – love – and mercy with me.

I remember and give thanks for my very first Sunday school teachers – Mrs. Clauson and Mrs. Ridgeway. They were amazingly patient – kind – loving – creative women who shared the Good News of God’s love through absolutely riveting flannel board stories about Jesus and Moses and Adam and Noah. Through coloring pages and crayons. Through sparkling glitter and glue. And most especially through songs about Jesus loving me and letting my light shine.   Oh how I loved those songs!

Even though – Mrs. Clauson and Mrs. Ridgeway never became as famous as Billy Graham or Saint Peter – their ministry was a beautiful reflection of God’s love. I learned so much about God and his grace – love – and mercy from them. They were a life changing blessing to me. I am different because of their ministry to me.

Who shaped your faith?   Who shared God’s love with you? Who pointed you toward God?

Was it your parents? Or your grandparents? A special Sunday school teacher or youth group leader or camp counselor? Perhaps – it was a neighbor or a friend or a co-worker. Maybe it was your first boyfriend?

My guess is each of you can point to people who shaped your faith.   They probably aren’t famous for their faithfulness – but that doesn’t matter.

What matters is they answered God’s call and served him.   What matters is they shared the Good News of God’s love with you. What matters is they helped you understand you are a beloved child of God!

Whoever these people are and whatever they did to shape your Christian faith – they gave you the most precious gift in the world. They showed you God’s love.

We should give God thanks for all of the faithful folks who heard God’s call and served God. We should give God thanks for their faithfulness and love.

And as we give God thanks for those who have shown us Christ – let us also remember that we too are called to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Remember Matthias and follow in his humble example.   Answer God’s call and serve so   others too might know the Good News of God’s grace – love and mercy. Because God’s grace – love – and mercy really and truly are too amazing to keep to ourselves. AMEN.

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