Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sermon: May 24 (8 AM)

Can you believe they picked him? Over the other guy? Now, I am not talking about American Idol, how Kris Allen beat Adam Lambert for the "American Idol" title. I am talking about Matthias…You know, one of the twelve…

Can you remember the names of the 12 disciples? Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, James (The Great) and John, then Philip, Nathaniel (also called Bartholomew), Matthew, Thomas, and James, son of Alpheus (The Less), and Simon the Zealot, and Judas, son of James (also called Thaddeus), and Judas Iscariot, who lost his spot.

What about Matthias? Did you remember him? Matthias, he's not one usually remember, maybe if they did it like American Idol.. .The next Disciple of Jesus is.. ..Matthias...

No. Peter gathers the believers together to choose someone to replace Judas Iscariot. Someone who followed Jesus along the way, someone in their midst, and those gathered put forth two names, Matthias & Joseph called Barsabbas. After a brief prayer, lots are cast (an ancient way of trying to determine God's will) and Matthias was chosen to be with the 11 as a witness to the Resurrection.

Quiet Ministry. One tradition holds he went to Ethiopia. But otherwise history is silent on his ministry (as it is with the runner up, Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus)). They went about their ministry as witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus, but I believe without fanfare and yet their ministry, their witness was fruitful to those whom they touched.

On Memorial Day, we remember those who gave their life for the freedom and liberty we now enjoy, so many of whom are nameless but their sacrifice still means the same. That is true of Matthias as well, we might not remember him and yet his witness still means the same, that Christ died, Christ was raised and Christ ascended.

What about our witness? We may not be well known except to our family and friends, but we play our part in God's grand scheme of things, we are witnesses today.

I think of an old story about how we witness.

The Buddhist master assembled his young charges. "Times are very hard. As you can imagine, it takes many resources to keep our school open. We are in desperate need of funds right now and I'm afraid we are forced to resort to unsavory measures in order to survive. Today I must send you into the town on the other side of the hill where many people of affluence live. You will need to steal whatever you can - money, valuables, food - if we are to continue."

"But you have taught us that it is wrong to steal," said one student.

"Yes, I have," the master agreed. "And it would be wrong if it were not absolutely necessary. Take only what we need, and no one will suffer. However, you must be very careful so no one recognizes that you are stealing. If you are caught, the reputation of our school will be tarnished forever. Do you understand the task I have given you?"

In stunned silence, the students looked at one another and then at their master. He stared at them. "Do you understand?" he asked again. They nodded.
"Very well," the master said. "Now go and get the things I have put on this list."

The students left the room reluctantly, taking the list of items from their teacher. "Remember!" he called out. "No one can know."

As he turned back to the room, he noticed one student remained. "Why are you still here? You should be with the others."

"But you have given us an impossible task," the boy cried. "How so?" the master asked.

"You told us no one could find out we were stealing. But if I were stealing, then I would be the first witness to my own actions."

"That's it!" the master shouted with joy. "That is the lesson I am trying to teach you in all of this. Now go, run after your brothers and bring them home." [From]

We know in our hearts the Good news of the Resurrection. We are witnesses to the experiences of God in our lives! So how will you witness to your Easter experience? How will you bring Good News to the world? Let me end with the words of Episcopal Bishop Steven Charleston (although I imagine St. Matthias, Apostle & Witness could have said these words too)

“I am a witness. I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe in God's gospel of justice, compassion, and reconciliation. I believe in the community of God and I will work faithfully with every person to bring peace and healing to the world. I open my hands. I open my heart. I want the world to see that I am not afraid. I step gratefully into the unconditional love of God. I stand up to be counted not for what I think is right, but for what I believe to be possible. How about you? Will you stand with me? Are you a witness?”

You can find an audio version here.

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