Church: A Holy Partnership

Sermon,  St Matthias Day

Feb 24, 2014. St Petri

Acts 1:15-2615 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers and sisters,[a] the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”18 (With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19 Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)20 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms:“‘May his place be deserted;     let there be no one to dwell in it,’[b]and,“‘May another take his place of leadership.’[c]21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barnabas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

HOW GOD IS WORKING AMONG US

So, who the heck is Matthias and what has he got do with us here this morning? I hear you say: Excellent question. Asking it might help us into that first Christian community right at its beginning and into our community and how God is working among us as modern day disciples or even “apostles” – “sent ones” of his.

MATTHIAS?

As we heard from St Luke, Matthias was the man chosen to replace Judas after Judas met his end after the resurrection of Jesus. This choosing happened before the first Pentecost when the young Christian community of “the Way’ was about 120 people strong.

The truth about Matthias is this…

“The only thing we know about Matthias is that he was with Jesus from the beginning and was a witness to the resurrection, and that he won the casting of lots to replace Judas among the Twelve. After that he laboured in obscurity, much like the rest of us”.

“He laboured in obscurity, much like the rest of us”. I like that. That’s us. We are disciples of Jesus labouring without need of fame or acknowledgement or payment. We are not famous. We don’t win an Academy Award or a Gold Medal at Sochi for faithfully bearing Jesus’ name in our day. We don’t need that.

Like Matthias, we only need the approval and affirmation of our Saviour. When we have completed a day of bearing his name as his “sent one” where we live it is like this;

So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” (Luke 17:10)

FOLLOWING JESUS’ WAY

In everyday ways we at St Petri are like Matthias and the Twelve. We are following the way Jesus outlines in that Sermon on the Mount where we pray, we serve, we give, deny ourselves at times – all in secret, so that our reward is not the praise of others but the longer term approval of our Heavenly Father. (Matthew 5)


Well, we would like to do this anyway. It is not easy because everything inside of us screams out for recognition and our culture certainly operates on immediate and visible recognition for just about everything these days. Every kid gets an award for just turning up to play, almost!

There are 1000 awards given at end of year things these days. Maybe Facebook is a search or a cry for recognition in some ways? Our old human – Adam, cries out for affirmation, being noticed, being praised by others, and so, living the life if an obscure “sent one” of God is a battle against ourselves and our culture.

Who are you and I and what are we supposed to do when we hear of Matthias, Matthew, Peter and the list of the others – count ourselves out of this holy huddle or be inspired to count ourselves in?

This text (and others) speaks of this special calling of “Apostle’s”. Apostolos, in Greek simply means “sent one”. But also in the New Testament church this name came to mean much more. “The Twelve” was a name given to this specially selected group of sent ones who had a special calling and authority in Christ’s authority.

Peter tells us what is so special about “The Twelve Apostle’s” as he describes the people who will qualify for the calling with Judas’ demise.

“….men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

I am purposely not going into the very timely debate on that word “men” and what that means for our current decisions concerning whether or not the ordained ministry is open to men and women or only men. That may be for another time.

Whoever qualifies for this select group of sent people, must;

  1. Have been with the other 11 all through the journey, even back to the ministry of John the Baptist.

  2. This person is to have witnessed all of Jesus’ teaching, miracles, living, his death, his resurrection right until the “time when he was taken in heaven”.

  3. And the main thing? This person must be a witness to Jesus’ resurrection.

NOT THE TWELVE BUT “SENT ONES”

So we see how many argue that there can be no “Apostle’s” now since this first New Testament church because what they witnessed cannot be witnessed as it was then?

However it is true that we are all enabled to be witnesses of the resurrection. Jesus tells us that we are especially blessed because we have not seen and yet believe” (John 20:29)

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

So, we are all “sent ones” in the sense that in our baptism into Christ we have been raised with him to rule with him by serving the world in his name. We are all disciples, students, learners of his Word and we are all given the calling and the authority to be “salt and light” among others. (Matthew 5:13-14)

A SPECIAL MINISTRY

It was “necessary” for Matthias to be chosen for a deeper reason than just “making up the numbers”.

Peter and the others surely trusted that there is this special ministry that God had called them to and it was not the same as the ministry of all the people of God” Complementary but different.

In a particular and special way, God had called these Twelve to a specific task, an essential ministry among the people of God for the people of God.

NOT A MATTER OF VOTE

The choosing of Matthias points to the realty that there is a special ministry that is neither a matter of vote or popularity or even spiritual gifts. No such things are mentioned in this text or in texts like these;

23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. (Acts 14:23)

God’s call and people’s trust was the qualification for those whom Barnabas and Paul set in place to be witnesses of the resurrection in the local communities of faith they planted.

PRIMARY TASK OF PASTORS

The primary task given to those who were called by God into this special service for God’s people was to “proclaim God’s word”, not even primarily to use your spiritual gifts, know more about things, be nice to people, be accepted by people and etc…

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction (2 Timothy 4:2)

THE GOAL?

The goal of all this preaching and doing of God’s Word is disciples. Followers of Jesus are to be made as we baptise people into Christ and continually teach his word. (Matthew 28:18-20)

THE MINISTRY

Friends the Lutheran Church, like other mainline churches believe that God has established a special ministry for the good of his people. We call it the “ordained” ministry, for want of a better word.

Yes, there is this special ministry and yet we are together, we are the church of Jesus Christ. Here’s how our Lutheran Confessions speak of us:

The church is the assembly of saints in which the gospel is taught purely and the sacraments are administered rightly. (Augsburg Confession VII)

I love that. It is clear but open. Elsewhere the Confessions say that “in as much as the gospel of Jesus is proclaimed in its purity and the holy gifts of baptism and Lord’s Supper are enacted faithfully according to the gospel – that is the Christian Church – no matter what denomination, language, culture and so on.

So that is all of us together. That is us, as Peter and then Luther named it, “the priesthood of all believers”:

OUR TASK TOGETHER?

Our calling is to live God pleasing lives (1Peter 2:11-12 and following)

  1. Abstain from selfish and sinful desired within

  2. Live under rightful authority in the world and the church

  3. Work under your elders, those in right authority and work well.

  4. Avoid pay-back

  5. Live faithfully and lovingly in marriage

  6. Love your fellow disciple of Christ……

  7. Be always prepared to give a reason for the hope you have in the gospel

  8. Pray and serve

Where and how do you be a person of the gospel? We do this in four spheres and they are in order of importance in 1 Peter.

  1. Family (domestic relationships)

  2. Community (social relationships)

  3. Place of work (economic relationships)

  4. State (political relationships)

BUT WHAT ABOUT PASTOR?

What is my role as Pastor? Here’s what our confession of faith say:

So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the gospel and administering the sacraments was instituted (by God). For through the Word and the sacraments as through instruments the Holy Spirit is given, who effects faith where and when it pleases God in those who hear the gospel….

So that this gem, this very good news of God’s grace gets into the ears and hearts of the world, Jesus established this special ministry of service; this specially chosen or ordained and set apart calling we call The Office of the Holy Ministry.

This gift is for you and with you. This Ministry is set to encourage and empower you in your calling to bear witness where you live.

And that is the long and short of it.

On the day when we meet our Saviour face to face and we are gathered in the cloud of fellow witness to the resurrection of Jesus we will hear them say about St Petri ….” they laboured in obscurity, much like the rest of us”.

I am happy to labour in obscurity with you and hear those words of affirmation from the many who have lived a faithful life and received what Matthias received – a life that was worth living for himself , his community and his Lord.

For the Apostles and their “apostolic Word” we live and speak we thank the Lord of the Church, Jesus the Saviour and commit to happily working in obscurity with him in this place.

Amen

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Read through the text carefully and note down anything that triggers your imagination or brings a question to mind.

Share these when you have finished listening….

You could also read Luke 6:12-16 too for the story of Matthias…

I quoted a comment from a scholar about Matthias..

“The only thing we know about Matthias is that he was with Jesus as from the beginning and was a witness to the resurrection, and that he won the casting of lots to replace Judas among the Twelve. After that he laboured in obscurity, much like the rest of us”.

Interesting isn’t it? One of the actual Twelve Apostles of Jesus, from whom came the first Christian community of disciples and through whose Word the Lord changed the world eventually is hardly even known to us! What do you think about that comment, “After that he laboured in obscurity, much like the rest of us”?

a. God doesn’t really care what his “sent ones” (Apostle’s) do?

b. God does care but he prefers his “sent ones” to not seek regognition from others?

c.God cares about his sent ones and calls them to seek his recognition?

d. Both b and c?

Share you experience of the struggle to “work in obscurity” as Christians bearing witness to Christ in our lives.

Is it a struggle for you?

Why is it a struggle to be unnoticed by others even though we know we are recognised by the Lord?

Share a story of your own about how you have been God’s “sent one” in a situation and not received any recognition for that….. Was it hard or easy or both?

What do you make of Facebook and social media? Are these things a way for people to find some recognition and is that a bad thing?

Share you thoughts on the holy partnership that we mentioned – the partnership between the person called by the Lord of the Church to preach and teach the gospel for the building up of God’s people (pastor) and the “priesthood of all believers” who are called to bear witness to the gospel in their everyday lives.

Often we might think that bearing witness to the gospel among others is the pastor’s job, but we see in the Bible and the Lutheran confessions of faith that we are all charged with this calling. How do you feel about that? Share your thoughts and experience on this “holy partnership” we share today.

PRAYLord, help us to work together as pastor and people for the coming of your kingdom of grace and love in the place where we live. Help us be confident and content with your recognition of us as your baptised and dearly loved people so that we can happily live without too much recognition from others and like Matthias and the Twelve, work on in obscurity in the good news of Jesus. Amen.

c. God

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