Monday, May 21, 2012

Sermon: Eenie, meenie, meinie, moe (abridged)

Preached at St. Luke's Rossmoor, 7 Easter 2012

This story from Acts is about the first major decisions the disciples need to make without Jesus there: whom should they choose to take the place of Judas. They have two candidates, both of whom have been with the group since Jesus' baptism up through the Ascension. Which one should they pick--Justus, or Matthias? And they go with what I think is the cheapest form of decision making they could use: they flip a coin.

It strikes me as very odd that this story is in here at all because you never hear about Matthias again. Was he any good? What did he do? Maybe the early church knew of him, but nothing more is said. And so the thing that stands out about this story is the fact that the disciples chose gambling as their discernment tool of choice.

But as I thought about that, I thought there’s something lovely and humble about the fact that they left this to chance. I mean, it’s a big decision: they are choosing one of the leaders. This could have devolved into factions from the start: the Justus faction and the Matthias faction. They could have argued the merits of each and pointed out signs that indicated that one or the other of them was the one God really wanted. But they didn’t. They said, in essence, here are two guys, we like them both, we’re not going to pretend to know everything about them. Since we’re not wise enough to choose, let’s hand over the authority we have to choose to God, with the faith that God works through forces beyond our control.

Sometimes we don’t know God’s will. Many times (in my experience) we beat ourselves up over that, about how we need to know God’s will so we can make the right decisions and do the right things. But as I said, there’s something humble and beautiful in admitting we don’t know God’s will. Of course we don’t always know God’s will; we’re not God.

Or it may be that we are not expected to know God’s will in the specifics, but only in the general outlines. The disciples knew they needed a replacement for Judas; that they knew. They knew it needed to be somebody who was with them throughout Jesus’ ministry. But the particular…that was not as crucial.

Such a good lesson. So often we get caught up in the specifics. Should I move to this place or that one? Should I volunteer here or spend my time there? Does our church need to do this or that? And we scan everything about them to see if there’s a clue about God’s will, agonizing when we don’t know for sure, sure if we were only more faithful we would know.

But maybe it doesn’t work that way. Maybe we don’t have to know the specifics. Maybe God’s will goes deeper than that so when the time comes to choose, the choice doesn’t matter so much.

I love the Psalm for today, that image of those people who delight in the law of the Lord:
They are like trees planted by streams of water,
Bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither;
Everything they do shall prosper.
Here’s what I love about that image: when you have a fruit tree, you don’t worry about whether this peach or that one is a good one; you just pick any one that’s ripe and you eat it. It will be just as good for you as the other peach you didn’t eat. But it all depends on whether the whole tree is decent.

So maybe the question for us to ask ourselves is: is the tree decent? Are we based in the love of God overall? Are we generous? Are we a source of comfort? Or are we overall bitter? Are we selfish? Are we a source of hurt? Because if we are, it doesn’t really matter which peach we pick; it’s still going to be small and hard and pithy.

But let me tell you something: from what I know of you, and from what Anne says of you, I’m thinking you’re planted by streams of water. In which case, don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t worry about whether this choice or that one is the one and only perfect Part of God’s Eternal Plan. Pick a peach—any peach—that seems good and ripe and delicious to you. Bite into it. Enjoy.


An old soul said...

I haven't been to your site in a few weeks and this morning, as I sat sipping my coffee, I read this post. Thank you! Hours later, as I sat with my ailing pet of almost 11 years, I had to decide whether to put her down or amputate her front leg. I was immediately reminded of my morning reading--I had to step out on faith not knowing what the eventual outcome will be. I found comfort in your words and your reminder to all of us that we don't need to know God's will but we do need to make a decision and be OK with it--whatever happens will be God's will.

LKT said...

Oy! Neither one of those sounds peachy to me. I'm so sorry. Prayers to you and your pet.

An old soul said...

Thanks for your prayers--we are all recovering nicely and getting around just fine as a "tri-pawed".