Canon Maria Tjeltveit
Church of the Mediator, Allentown
‘For it is written in the book of psalms, …“‘Let another take his position of overseer.’”
So, one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went
in and out among us… one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.’ And
they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.
Acts 1:20b-22, 26
In response to Judas’ death, after his betrayal of Jesus, Peter led the believers in deciding that another man must be added to the apostles to keep their number at 12, Acts 1:15-26. Peter used quotations from the Psalms to justify his position (including Psalm 109:8 above) and they cast lots to decide between two candidates. That is how Matthias became the twelfth apostle.
When I came to Church of the Mediator in 1999, the church was proud of its system of 12 commissions from the 1970’s, based, as I was told, on the number of the apostles. Some commissions weren’t functioning but were listed on paper, while other groups had formed, but these were called “committees” to distinguish them from the 12. Now we are trying fewer working groups instead, to reflect our smaller size, but it is hard to let go of the old model.
This makes me wonder if choosing Matthias was the first incidence of Jesus’ followers deciding that they had to maintain an existing structure for no reason other than that was the way they had done it before. What if, instead of citing Psalm 109:8, Peter had selected psalm 96, “Sing to the Lord a new song?” Why did they need 12 apostles? What would they do when Paul came along and declared himself an apostle, making the number 13?
Where in your life and in your parish are you holding onto models because that’s how you have always done it?