Taking on an impossible job

A tense few days ahead waiting for the phone call.  However, to be realistic I think my boyhood ambition to be manager of EFC is unlikely to be realized; probably now an impossibility.   Sigh.

Replacing key personnel, not just Premiership managers, is always a risky business.  You can do all your research, you can follow your hunches – but you just never know.  Only by looking back can you be sure.  An uncertain business.

So was Matthias a mistake?

In the church year we are now in the period between Ascension and Pentecost.

Jesus ascends to his Father’s right hand, leaving his disciples so that, in the words of the apostle Paul, he may fill the universe with his presence (Ephesians 4:10).  He has told them to hold tight and wait for the Holy Spirit.  Only then are they to move out to change the world.

Waiting is never easy, just sitting around in an upper room.  And there is a glaring gap.  The Twelve are one man down following the defection and death of Judas.

So Peter proposes, and everyone agrees, that they do something about it and produce a short list of two, Joseph Barsabbas (aka Justus) and Matthias.  They pray and cast lots.  So Matthias is the man.

That’s how they did things in the Old Testament.  No one quite knows what the Urim and Thummin actually looked like and how they worked.

But to all intents and purposes they were the liturgical equivalent of tossing a coin, the argument being that if God is in complete control, he can direct whether it’s heads or tails.

Luke in recounting this episode in Acts 1 simply keeps to the facts:

he makes no judgment on their decision.  Except to say that we never hear of Matthias again.

Unlike Paul.   Here Luke makes Paul the main character in his Acts of the Apostles, his second letter to Theophilus.   For him it is the Pharisee Saul of Tarsus whom God chooses to replace Judas, not Matthias.

We are always in too much of a hurry and fail to give God time and space.

For now following Pentecost we have the privilege of being led by the Holy Spirit rather than by following random events.  Not always as prompt or as clear cut as tossing a coin but one which develops a confidence in God’s ability to guide.  God wants to develop our discernment.

However, it wasn’t easy for Paul.  Not everyone supported the Holy Spirit’s choice.  A whole group in the church in Corinth, for example,  ridiculed his apostleship.  He lacked personal presence;  he was a poor speaker  (2 Corinthians 10:9-11).

More to the point Paul – unlike Matthias –  didn’t even know Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth.  Maybe that was the reason why Luke in writing Acts recounts the Damascus road encounter no less than three times!  Paul did indeed meet with Jesus.

Fascinating to see how Paul defends his corner.  What he doesn’t do is parade his successful ministry.  Certainly he does not list all his miracles or name his celebrity converts.    What he does do is recount all his sufferings as an apostle because for Paul apostleship means suffering.  These are his qualifications.

I am just finishing reading one of the best theological books ever.

Yes, by Tom Wright;  “How God became King”  (SPCK 2012). An accessible read.

“The Messiah is to come into his Kingdom  through a horrible death, and those who not only follow him but are called to implement his work must expect that their royal task – for such it is – will be accomplished in the same way, by the same means.

“There is every sign that the earliest church understood this very well indeed, just as there is every sign (alas) that today’s church does not – except of course, in those parts of the world, like China and the Sudan, where there has been no choice.”  (page 222)

I suspect David Moyes is taking the path of suffering by assuming a job with impossibly high expectations.  But for the Christian this is par for the course except that our impossibly high expectations are in Jesus himself, the Lord of glory, Lord over all.