Meditation on Acts 1:15-17 and 21-26
The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, OH
Pastor Karen Crawford
May 9, 2021
I cleaned house this week to get ready for Mother’s Day. Did any of you clean your house? While I was cleaning my house, I couldn’t help but think of my mother and grandmothers—and what they taught me. You know, simple instructions for life.
While I was vacuuming with my lightweight vacuum, scaring the cats with all the noise I was making, I was remembering my Grandma Springer, my mom’s mom, who was a housewife and longtime caregiver to my grandfather, using what she called a sweeper. It didn’t use electricity. She pushed it back and forth, back and forth, on her carpets. It was hard work. Did any of you ever have a sweeper that didn’t use electricity?
I also remember Grandma teaching me how to polish silverware and candlesticks. Does anyone do that anymore? Somehow, she made it fun. She also taught me how to sew buttons that had come off my grandfather’s shirts and cardigan sweaters, darn holes in his socks and sew old, frayed ties. A young woman in the Depression years, Grandma wasn’t someone who took anything for granted or bought new things very often.
Here are some pictures of my mother’s parents.
Both of my grandmothers were great cooks, although Grandma Springer (Mom’s mom) made almost everything from scratch, including her desserts, and Grandma Kornspan (Dad’s mom), who worked full time in a government job before she retired, bought all her desserts. Here’s a picture of her early in her career with the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C.
Store bought and homemade, all of my grandmothers’ desserts were delicious. I still remember how Grandma Kornspan would slice vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream and serve it on plates. Here is a photo of Grandma Kornspan with my grandfather.
As my grandmothers grew older, they taught me many more important things. They taught me about having grace through all of life’s transitions and struggles. My dad’s mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in her later years, and it was hard on her and the whole family, losing her, in many ways, bit by bit.
Here she is with my uncle in a happy moment, at one of her birthday parties. I learned from my grandmothers that life doesn’t always go as planned, and that the roles of caregiver and receiver may change throughout the seasons of our lives.
And when the unexpected happens, as it will, we can only pray, trust God, and do the next right thing.
And this is what happens to the remaining 11 disciples after Judas Iscariot betrays Jesus—betrays all of them—for 30 pieces of silver. How horrible they must feel when the one who was their friend and fellow chosen follower of the Lord turns against him and his actions lead to his arrest and death!
But more unexpected things happen to the disciples—and continue to happen when Jesus is risen from the dead and appears to them, assuring them that he is alive!
And that his death is part of the plan for God’s salvation! He tells them to wait and pray for the Spirit, that will empower them to be his apostles, no longer just disciples or followers. Apostles are those being sent out to bear witness to his resurrection and eternal life through him.
Beginning at Acts 1:12, they return to Jerusalem from Mount Olivet, a sabbath day’s journey away, and they go to the room upstairs where they are staying: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.
They are doing the one thing they knew to do. “All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.” (Acts. 1:14)
And then we come to today’s passage—when Peter is speaking to 120 believers by this time! Another disciple needs to be chosen to fill Judas Iscariot’s place—12 disciples, one for every tribe of Israel.
Isn’t it interesting how the 11 disciples choose the one? First, they narrow it down to two men who seem the best candidates, who have been with them since the beginning of Jesus’ ministry—at his baptism by John. We may be tempted to overlook the many disciples outside the inner circle. But the choosing of a 13th is a good reminder that there were many, many more, including women, and that Jesus tells us to pray for more! In Luke 10, Jesus appointed “70 others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’ ”
The two who are chosen are Joseph called Barsabbas, which means “son of the Sabbath”—so he was probably born on the Sabbath. He’s also known as “Justus,” a Gentile name, which was common for Jewish people of that time. Eusebius, a 4th century bishop and historian of Palestine, said this Joseph (Barsabbas) “when challenged by unbelievers, drank snake venom in the Lord’s name and suffered no harm.” (–F.F. Bruce)
But it’s Matthias, not Joseph, who is chosen to replace Judas Iscariot.
Eusebius will say that Matthias was one of the 70 disciples in Luke 10 that Jesus sends out in pairs. Some authorities say that Matthias became a missionary to Ethiopia (F.F. Bruce). Others say he ministered in Judaea and brought Christianity to “Cappadocia” a mountainous district now in central Turkey, later journeying to the region of the Caspian Sea, where he was martyred by crucifixion.” –Brittanica
In any case, he is never mentioned again in the New Testament! What’s more important than his identity is how the 11 disciples trust the Lord to guide them in this important decision, when things haven’t gone as they hoped or planned. After choosing two candidates for the calling, they pray, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.’ And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias…” (Acts 1:24-26)
When we hear about casting lots, we might think that sounds an awful like gambling, and it is like throwing dice or flipping a coin today, only with a more holy intention. The High Priest of Israel, at times, casted lots to make important decisions, as Proverbs 16:33 says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is wholly from the Lord.”
This passage stirs us to consider in what new ways God may be calling us to minister for him. Matthias, up until the moment the lots were cast, had no idea God was calling him to be not just a disciple, but an apostle, a leader of the faith! Before that, he was just “one of the 70.”
The mission in Christ’s name continues through us! I hate to say this, but as denominations and congregations are shrinking, there may be fewer of the faithful to do the work of ministry in the world! YOU ARE NEEDED to build the Church of Jesus Christ! The question is how can you use your gifts for His glory? How are you building your treasure in heaven?
On this day when we honor our biological and spiritual mothers and grandmothers in the faith, it is good for us to consider how we may be passing on our faith to the next generation—like our mothers and grandmothers did for us? Are we being obedient to God’s Word and responding to the testimony of believers? How are we looking for the hand of God in our lives, seeking His presence? Are we revealing the kindness and compassion of God to our children and children’s children? You know just by being in church today is a witness to family members who choose not to attend.
Let your life boldly speak your faith!
I am thankful on this day, most of all, for my mom. Here are some photos of Mom with her family.
She is spending a second Mother’s Day without my dad, as my dad passed away in August 2019. She is spending it without any of her children or grandchildren with her. And yet, she does it with grace. She is eating dinner with and caring for her friends at her senior living community in Florida. She often serves neighbors in need, welcoming the stranger, befriending those who are grieving or lonely, encouraging those who are sick or caring for loved ones.
Life hasn’t always gone as she has planned.
Unexpected things have and will happen to us. Amen? We can’t know what tomorrow will bring. That’s why we need to be fully present with loved ones today. Show and tell them how much we love them! Share the testimony of your faith, which leads you, when the unexpected happens, to pray, trust God, and do the next right thing.
Simple instructions for life.
Let us pray.
God of Compassion, we thank you for your love and grace that fills our hearts and overflows into our lives. Thank you for the strength and courage you give us when things don’t go as we hoped or planned, but somehow, somehow, everything works together for your purposes and glory. Thank you for all our biological and spiritual mothers and grandmothers—and for the way you care for us and provide for our needs through our loved ones. Bless all the women in our lives, Lord, on this special day and always. Help us to nurture the next generations – our children and children’s children—in the faith through the way we speak, spend money, give of ourselves, and live for you each day. Thank you for our callings and the gifts you have given us for ministry. Teach us to pray, Lord, and be open to new ministries. And to ask you, before making important decisions, to lead us to do the next right thing, just as the 11 disciples did when they chose Matthias long ago. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.