Our first reading from this past Sunday tells the account of the calling of Matthias to replace Judas as one of the Apostles. We don’t often talk about him though. After all, he never wrote a Gospel. We don’t have any epistles from him. He sort of comes in after-the-fact of the Gospel histories. Yet, apart from being just one of the historical curiosities, Luke’s account from Acts 1:12-26 is still significant for our understanding of both the early Church and the ongoing life of the Church today.
St. Matthias’ ministry took him through Judea and into the territories of the modern-day country of Georgia. There is some discrepancy about where his martyrdom took place – Jerusalem or Georgia – but these details are not so essential to what Luke’s account teaches us.
First, absolutely, we have an example of a first century ‘call meeting’ – where a vacancy left by the apostasy and death of one of the original Apostles was addressed by the remaining leadership of the early Church. They short-listed a number of candidates, and following prayerful consideration made their selection (by casting lots no less!). Within our Lutheran Churches, we follow the same practice when it comes to calling a new pastor today – with, maybe, the exception of casting lots – as we seek to discern who the Holy Spirit may be calling to take on the role of pastor and undershepherd of our congregations.
But, more important, is the concern we see expressed in Matthias’ selection – where the Apostles wanted to ensure that the man selected was one who had both been with Jesus since the beginning and had been an eyewitness of the Resurrection. This was the unique concern of the early Church that the witnesses and preachers could offer an authentic testimony of who Jesus was and what He had said, done, and taught.
The calling of Matthias illustrates the integrity of the early Church in its concern for faithfulness in its witness – something that we ought to take to heart, both in the way in which we read the New Testament documents as well as in the way in which we look at the evangelistic purpose of the Church today. We are not called upon to innovate and ‘tinker’ with the message but to present it faithfully and clearly to a new generation. Not because we are brokers in ‘ideas’ but because Christianity is founded upon none other than Jesus Christ (our cornerstone) who, as God-in-the-flesh, is our entrance into heaven. And we, as present-day Christians, are inheritors of this mission – to introduce another generation to that same Saviour and Lord.