There’s the story of the young Welshman who was thinking of making a marriage proposal to two women – Blodwyn and Maria. He couldn’t decide between them and so, as a good Christian, went to pray about it at church. He knelt in the nave facing the altar and cried, Lord, Lord, should it be Blodwyn or Maria. He looked up to see the words in large letters across the arch of the church. Ave Maria. So he did. There is something obviously random about Mathias and Joseph. They both had excellent CVs but there was only one position available. it was important. 120 Christians were there, but unlike an ACM or Synod, there was no vote, they were chosen by lot – as if the hand of God was likely to be in that rather than wisdom from a vote. Perhaps it was wise. Democracy, as Churchill said, is the worst form of government except for all the others. Being an ‘apostle’ was clearly an important role, otherwise why not have both of them, why do this in front of 120 others, and Luke bothers to tell us the story – so it must have been important. The CV, Peter thought important. The replacement needed to have been with Jesus from the beginning, someone who saw the resurrection and could tell others about it. That was the criteria for appointment – but how much of a failure that was – Judas had been there from the beginning. It’s not how long you serve but the fire in your heart that counts – as Paul knew. One can only imagine the sadness (or maybe relief) of Joseph when ‘God’ supposedly didn’t choose him. From that point, no one hears anything more about either of them. There is a 3rd-century reference to Matthias having written a gospel, but it is lost to us – so we know nothing. They have faded into oblivion – as may we after a few years, no doubt we’ll still have a digital signature somewhere – maybe with the tax man. I think of those I knew who have faded into the past. Mr Cox, Mrs Collins, Mrs Stoneman, Mr Davis, Jim Sargent, the Miss Argents who had a parrot, Mr Farmery… and I can go on… names from the church I went to as a youngster. Unknown to the world. People who had hearts for Christ who affected me, worked with me, were kind to me and showed what Jesus would do in terms of love for me. They knew their Lord, but were not chosen to be ministers or priests, Nobel prize winners, international theologians or characters in history, but chosen to be servants of God who would, amongst many other things, keep Adrian on the right track. You will know those people in your life. Each of us is Matthias or Joseph. We are, as both Acts and John indicate, witnesses to the truth, those bearing testimony of God from our own experience, not because we know the Bible backwards, not because we have faith of tremendous power, but because we simply say that God, through Jesus, has supported and loved us through our lives. Time and again I am moved by the action of people in our own chaplaincy community who give their time and love over and over again, others who speak willingly of the effect of God in their lives, over and over again. It is that verbal and practical witnessing which is wonderful. The Greek word for witness is martyr. This was before the witness to Christ became a target for murder. In a sense we are all martyrs, because we give all we have to the King of kings who is now raised and ascended, and will be delivering the Holy Spirit in the newest and most vibrant way on Pentecost. And all this is not random. It is by God’s kindness, God’s grace we are saved through the love and trust we and other have in a God who will bring you through and your task is to love so that others will see that and tentatively find a way to the throne of Christ through it. Amen
Jesus prays for his disciples
6 ‘I have revealed you[a] to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of[b] your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by[c] that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
13 ‘I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by[d] the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.