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by: Bishop Skip Adams
The Episcopal Church in South Carolina
The betrayer, Judas, had done his deed. Now the company of apostles was down one. Peter was clear as he rose to call the community to its responsibility to replace Judas with another and restore the number to twelve, reflecting the fullness of the twelve tribes of Israel.
I have always wondered how Matthias felt to be one coming off of the bench to take his place on the first string. Did he want to be chosen? Did he lobby for the position? Did he see Joseph Barsabbas as a competitor about whom, by the description in Acts, a bit more was known? The criteria named was “one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us…” and here is the kicker – “one of these men must be with us a witness to his resurrection.” This is a criterion dear to my own heart as a bishop in God’s one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. All bishops are “called to be one with the apostles in proclaiming Christ’s resurrection…” (BCP p. 517)
Yet is this not the responsibility of all baptized people? The bishop of a community is the icon or window for that glorious mission for the sake of everyone. Each person of Christ, every parish and faith community, is called to be first and above all a witness to the resurrection of Christ where we die to everything that is not of God’s perfect love for all the creation, in order that the new life of grace may take root and flourish. Our call is to name it where we see it and also to be a part of bringing it about for all to see – witnesses.
Perhaps this is why we know nothing of Matthias, never named again in scripture. He is to be understood as every person taking one’s place in the company of apostles. The account in Acts is clear that Matthias was chosen by God, not a mere vote. Just as he was enrolled with the eleven apostles, so in our baptism are we. The integrity of that original community of Christ was threatened by one who had “turned aside to go to his own place.” Remaining faithful in community is hard now just as it was then. But just the fact of being in community, seeking to be a part of God’s mission, is in itself a witness to resurrection hope.
Our heavenly citizenship is to be lived out in earthly application. Our security and center in this Gospel work is not to be found in our own ability to make it work. It is not even to be found in the quality of our prayer or, get this, not even in the existence of our individual churches. We discover in a mature faith that it is never merely about us. Even one of Jesus’ choices ended up not working out so well. Our hope is in the living Christ who is among us and in us. It is always about the mission for which we are called – witnesses of the resurrection.