Sermon: St. Matthias

Today we celebrate St. Matthias and our reading from the Acts of the Apostles that we heard is all we really know about him. He is believed to have been one of the seventy-two that Jesus sent out, but when it came time to replace Judas Iscariot as an Apostle, he won the position by the casting of lots. Tradition holds that he ministered in and around Judea and would eventually be martyred for the faith. However, as I was thinking and praying on the message for today, it wasn’t Matthias that I kept thinking on. The passage said, “they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.” The casting of lots made Matthias an Apostle, but what about Joseph Barsabbas?

Can you imagine: soon after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the eleven remaining Apostles come together, have a conversation, and decide that Judas needs to be replaced. So, they sort through all the resumés and you and this other fella, Matthias, are up for the job. Then Peter grabs the dice, points at you and says, “Even number the job is your’s, odd it goes to Matthias.” And it is over that quick: Peter rolls a five, claps you on the back, and turning to Matthias, ushers him into the inner circle. You know, Jesus called Peter the Rock, but if I had been in Joseph’s sandals, I would have to liked to hit him with one! So close!

Back in 1858, Abraham Lincoln was running against Stephen Douglas for a seat in the Illinois legislature. Lincoln actually won the popular vote, but due to an obscure state statue, the seat was awarded to Douglas (which only goes to prove that we’ve never been able to hold a proper election!… anyhow…) A friend came to Lincoln and asked him how he felt. He is reported to have responded, “Like the boy who stubbed his toe: I am too big to cry and too badly hurt to laugh.”

I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if that is how Joseph felt, but apparently he demonstrated no ill feelings. St. John Chrysostom writes, “The other candidate (Joseph) was not annoyed, for the apostolic writers would not have concealed failings of their own, seeing they have told of the very chief apostles, that on other occasions had indignation, and not only once, but again and again.” If Joseph had been upset at losing, Luke would have recorded it. He did not, and Joseph went on to become a bishop, martyr and Saint.

We can look to the Apostle Matthias—also a martyr and saint—and understand that if God chooses a specific roll for our lives, his will will be accomplished, but we can also look at Joseph and see that although there are disappointments, God’s will is still accomplished.

When the disappointments come our way, which they most certainly will, then we must say with the Psalmist, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Why are you disappointed and cast down? God’s purposes will be fulfilled in us all.

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