Sermon – May 17, 2015

Acts 1:12-26 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. 15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms, “‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’; and “‘Let another take his office.’ 21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us– one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

To be the one not chosen, whether it’s for a team, a job, a club membership, or some other activity, can be one of the most embarrassing events in our life. We end up feeling rejected and unacceptable. In the First Reading today, we hear that both Justus and Matthias were considered as the one to replace Judas as the twelfth disciple. Matthias was chosen, and Justus was not. Justus knew the embarrassment of not being chosen for this position. Yet we know that Justus and every Christian are chosen by God to be among his beloved sons and daughters and to be witnesses to him.

Each of Us Is Special to God, for He Chooses Us Even If the World Doesn’t.

I.

However, there is a part of us that can relate to “the unchosen” Justus.

Someone was needed to replace Judas as the twelfth disciple after Judas betrayed Jesus and took his own life. The apostles were gathered together during those ten days between Jesus’ ascension, which we celebrated on Thursday, and Pentecost, which we know is coming up next Sunday. The apostles did not know when that outpouring of the Holy Spirit was going to come, but they did understand that to carry out the Great Commission Jesus had given them before he ascended, they would need to be at full strength—twelve strong. So the other Christians considered two men for the job—Justus and Matthias. Both men were qualified. Both had experience. Both had served faithfully. Both were deserving of the honor. Both were loved by God. They were both good men, but only one could be chosen for this position.

After casting lots, equivalent to our drawing straws, Matthias was chosen. Today, Matthias is remembered as a saint. He has his own special day: February 24 is celebrated as St. Matthias Day.

And Justus? Well, he is completely forgotten. After this account in Scripture, he drops out of sight and is never heard of again. Being forgotten is what often happens when you’re the one not chosen. You’re sometimes forgotten, ignored, or considered a nobody.

I can’t help but wonder how Justus felt that day. He was qualified, experienced, deserving. One hundred and twenty of his fellow Christians said he was eligible, but Matthias got the job. How did that feel, to be the “unchosen one”? To have them say, “No, Justus, not you, but Matthias.” Justus even knew that God had caused the lot to fall where it did. God chose Matthias rather than him. I bet that hurt.

I imagine most of us can feel for Justus, because we all want to be the one chosen. Sinfully and selfishly, we want to be the favorite, best dressed, most likely to succeed, or most congenial. We want to be loved, admired, appreciated, and complimented. We want to be the one chosen for honors, awards, teams, prizes, and promotions. Many of us would like to be number one. Perhaps that sinful desire was a cause of Judas’s betrayal of Jesus.

But in the world, we can’t all make it to the top. The base of a pyramid is much bigger than the top. A large company had an opening for 5 management positions; 1,500 people wanted the job and applied for it. But only 5 were selected. As a result, that meant 1,495 were not chosen. Justus has a lot of company today.

Often, there’s no consolation prize.

Every one of us is at times the “unchosen one.” We can identify with Justus all too readily. The “unchosen ones” exist everywhere: the one who didn’t have enough skill to make the team or good enough grades to get into college; the one who didn’t get the promotion or the new job.

II.

However, whether or not the world has chosen us for any special honors or awards, God by grace has chosen us to be his sons and daughters. To be chosen by God’s grace is the greatest recognition or award in life.

Time after time, the Scriptures remind us of our chosen status. Long ago, the prophet Isaiah wrote, “?‘You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off’; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Is 41:9–10). Jesus told his disciples, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you” (Jn 15:16).

Paul described our being chosen in these words: “But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thes 2:13–14).

By Jesus’ death on the cross, he shows us that despite our sin we are special to God. We are important to him. We are the chosen ones who are loved, forgiven, and saved by his grace. By the Holy Spirit, we are placed on God’s spiritual team, the Church. Here, he invites us to come to his Holy Table, where we receive his body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins.

We are God’s chosen ones, and that is something wonderful indeed! Imagine you’re at a large gathering of people, awaiting the arrival of an important guest. Everyone’s standing around, looking at the door for the special guest to come. Finally, he arrives. All eyes are suddenly on him. He seems so knowledgeable, so energetic, and so electric in his personality. You would love to speak to him, if only for a short time. Everyone in the crowded room is thinking the same thing. Now the guest’s eyes scan the room, searching. Suddenly, his eyes stop, he smiles, and he walks over to you. He extends his hand and introduces himself. You, of all the people in the room, have been chosen for his special recognition. Imagine your joy and excitement!

Words spoken to us can make a big difference in our lives. A coach says, “You made the team.” A teacher tells us, “You are an outstanding student.” A beloved whispers to us, “I love you.” In the words spoken to us at our Baptism, God says to us, “You are my child. I forgive your sins. You are now a part of my family of faith.” We, too, know the power of God’s words. Each one of us is his chosen one. When Martin Luther was tempted to put himself down or feel depressed, he reminded himself of his Baptism, which made him a child of God.

You are the chosen ones. Chosen to be God’s children, God’s soldiers, the light of the world. Chosen to carry the torch of your generation into the darkness of today’s world. You are chosen to penetrate the age of evil with the liberating and freeing Gospel of Christ to raise to life those who are dead in sin in the name of the risen Lord Jesus.

Consequently, whenever you feel unchosen, unwanted, or unloved, you can remind yourselves that your value in God’s eyes is not determined by how many teams you’re on, how many awards you’ve won, how much you have, or how others view you. Rather, your worth is given to you by God, who made you in his image and saves you by his grace. Never forget or doubt that in Christ, you are God’s beloved, forgiven children. Amen.

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