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The Saint Matthias Society

Text: Acts 1:15-26

Have you ever heard of a Christian apostle by the name of Justus? No worries. No one else has either. He gets one passing mention by Luke in the book of Acts and then he disappears forever. Justus is mentioned because he is in a special election to fill the spot vacated by the traitor Judas. When he loses the election, he becomes an anonymous footnote in biblical history. That should come as no surprise because history is typically written by and reserved for winners. Sure, we remember a few famous election losers like Stephen Douglas, Aaron Burr, Thomas Dewey, but by and large the victors are the ones who fill the pages of our history books.

         It is not at all surprising that Luke never mentions Justus again after his election defeat. What is quite surprising is that Luke never mentions Matthias again after he wins the election. Luke tells the story of Matthias’ election with mystery and flare and then he writes the rest of the book of Acts without so much as a mention of that momentous election and its distinguished winner, Matthias.  

          The Gospel writers have much to say about Judas but only Luke mentions his successor, Matthias, and mentions him only once. I would argue, then, if Protestants had patron saints like our Catholic kin do, that Matthias should be known as the patron saint of overlooked or forgotten Christian servants.

         It is hard to forget flamboyant servants like Peter and scheming servants like James and John and despicable servants like Judas, but you and I are quick to overlook and forget the servants like Matthias among us, servants who are either altogether ignored or are mentioned at the bottom of page sixteen of the local news.

         As I look out upon this congregation that I love, I see a room full of Matthiases and the feminine equivalent. I see over twenty of you who spent yesterday creating food packets at the North Garden Fire Station for Rise Against Hunger, precious weekend time spent to make sure hungry kids will have a healthy meal to eat soon. I see Pam and Tilden, Rosetta and Bruce, who make sure that people can worship on-line at Cove when they cannot be here in person. I see Jody and Amanda and a Hospitality Circle who make sure that no one visiting here receives less than a warm welcome.

         I see Claire and Polly and Renee and so many others who adorn this modest room, Sunday after Sunday, with gorgeous arrangements of flowers. I see John who crafted an amazing painting on Palm Sunday and installed the empty cross for us to decorate on Easter and another John who throughout the pandemic got on his knees for months and quietly made sure that Cove’s floors were sanded and stained.

         When I look outside Cove, I see Marilee and Jane, Tom and Ellen, Walter and Jennell making sure that we care for this beloved piece of God’s creation as so many others have done before us. Gaze at the pulpit and you’ll often see Kelly and Greg, Amy and Adam leading us in worship. Leave the sanctuary and watch members like John and Kristel, Glad and Susan, Whit and Rebecca, and countless others living out their faith in their daily vocations.

         The few names I have just mentioned simply scratch the surface of those who belong to the St. Matthias Society at Cove. Now, you may wonder if it is not a dubious honor to belong to this society. For the St. Matthias Society is made up of hardworking Christian servants who rarely get the recognition they deserve and whose hard work is often overlooked and quickly forgotten. Why expend so much time and energy and resources if no one is going to recognize or appreciate the contributions we make?

         I suppose the same question could have been asked to Matthias. Why did you ever agree to have your name put in nomination to be an apostle? What prompted you to agree when you were invited to take the place of such a disappointing disciple as Judas? Didn’t you know that your contributions were destined to be overlooked and your name soon to be forgotten? Didn’t you understand that you would never be more than an insignificant memory when compared to the likes of Peter and Paul?

         Before any of those questions can get answers they deserve, we need to take another look at this special election at the opening of the Book of Acts. Luke goes to some trouble to describe the two essential qualifications required to run in this apostolic election. The person must have followed Jesus from beginning to end and the person must have seen the risen Jesus.

         After telling us that Matthias meets those two criteria, notice what Luke does not say. He does not say that Matthias tossed his hat into the ring to replace Judas. Matthias does not form a campaign committee or pay for posters that read: “Elect Matthias.” Matthias does not get a visit from the Apostolic Nominating Committee asking him to stand for election. No, Matthias does not run for office. He is elected because God has elected him to serve. That is the beginning and the ending of his campaign. 

         The late Marion Anderson described her decision to become an opera singer and to expand opera in the African-American community. She said, “It’s not so much that I chose music, but that music chose me.” I can hear Matthias saying, “Amen, Marion!” Christian vocation and service are just like that. Luke tells the story of the election of Matthias to remind us that whenever you and I consider walking in the way of Jesus, we had best take care, because it is most likely God’s hand at work, choosing us.

         I know it seems almost un-American to suggest that sometimes you and I have no choice in what we do. And yet, if this biblical story holds true, oftentimes when it comes to Christian service, we don’t. God chooses us and if we don’t heed the call, God haunts us and hound us until we do. Just ask Moses or Jeremiah or Esther. Maybe Matthias was anxious to assume Judas’ position and do it much better or maybe Matthias knew what Jonah learned the hard way, “You can run from God, but you cannot finally hide.”

         In the book, The Education of Little Tree, Forrest Carter describes his Cherokee boyhood, raised by his native American grandparents. The grandfather is a memorable mixture of scoundrel and saint. In a chapter called Church-going,” Carter tells us, “Grandpa said that preachers got so taken with themselves that they got the notion they personal held the door handle on the pearly gates and wouldn’t let nobody in without their say-so. Grandpa figured the preachers thought God didn’t have nothing atall to do with it.”

         Thank God for the quiet, often overlooked and easily forgotten saints like Matthias and the native American grandpa who remind us that God chooses whom God wills. God elects you and me to accomplish God’s purposes. God calls some to preach, some to sing, some to play the piano or violin, some to clean up after our messes, some to practice law, some to teach ethics, some to create just public policy, some to heal ailing bodies and troubled minds, some to repair bodies and computers and broken relationships.

         Within the church, God chooses some to serve as ruling elders, as clerks, as treasurers, to serve on boards and committees, and some to greet guests with a warm welcome and some to fix coffee or a cup of tea, and some to listen to a person who just needs someone else to listen.

        Most Christians I know belong to the St. Matthias Society. We sacrifice and give, care and love, far more often people ever know or notice. We sometimes do long, mundane, even boring work simply for the love of God. And, as faith would have it, that is more than enough.

         So, to each of you who are worshiping here at Cove or are worshiping by livestream today, and to any of you who are seriously considering joining this wonderful society of saints who do their best to follow in the ways of Jesus, it is my honor to welcome you as official, card carrying, members of the St. Matthias Society, a society of saints sometimes overlooked and often forgotten by many, but never forgotten by God. No, never forgotten by God.

         Welcome! I don’t know what we would do without you.


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