There are two on the bench and it's Matthias who gets the nod after they have 'casted lots' - two names in the hat and the first pulled out wins - something we encounter from time to time in the Bible and they didn't regard this as chance but as a means of approved determination. After all, as it says in Proverbs 16.33: 'We may throw the dice, but the LORD determines how they fall.'
There is a difference between chance and God's hand at work - honest!
So there's a new player on the pitch and the game is about to get underway. The struggle between those who believe and those who don't really gets under way as the two sides line up and then, as now, the contest is engaged. One side seeks to portray Him (that's Jesus, the Christ) as a liar and His followers as sad and deluded fools whilst the other clings to the conviction that through Jesus we are reconciled to God and have eternal life.
Watching football highlights yesterday I saw a time which was losing, which was not good. But I also saw a team who were fighting between themselves and this was worse than them losing in my book. Opposition and defeat are always with us, they challenge us and cause some to stumble and fall, but the way to overcome this is by standing together; unity is the key.
In our Gospel there is a sentence which shines out for me in the midst of so many excellent words as we read:
'Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.'
Unity is the hallmark of effective and true Church - look at the accounts in Acts and you'll see that where unity is to be found then so too is The presence of God's Holy Spirit and growth and public approval - and true Church withstands the opposition and scores goals!
So Jesus has ascended and is now sitting in the director's box. Where are you? On the pitch working as a team to overcome the opposition or in the stands booing every missed pass whilst claiming you could do better?
That's the challenge before us today - where are your boots then? Boots which, we are told in Galatians 6, we put on because they are the:
'peace that comes from the Good News so that we will be fully prepared.'
Risen, ascended Lord, as we rejoice at your triumph, fill your Church on earth with power and compassion, that all who are estranged by sin may find forgiveness and know your peace, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred and twenty people) and said, ‘Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus - for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry. So one of the men who have accompanied us throughout the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us - one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.’ So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed and said, ‘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; and he was added to the eleven apostles.
Blessed are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor lingered in the way of sinners, nor sat in the assembly of the scornful. Their delight is in the law of the Lord and they meditate on his law day and night. Like a tree planted by streams of water bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither, whatever they do, it shall prosper. As for the wicked, it is not so with them; they are like chaff which the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked shall not be able to stand in the judgement, nor the sinner in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked shall perish.
If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son. Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son. And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.
And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled.
But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.
Post Communion Prayer
Eternal God, giver of love and power, your Son Jesus Christ has sent us into all the world to preach the gospel of his kingdom: confirm us in this mission, and help us to live the good news we proclaim; through Jesus Christ our Lord.