I encourage you to read more about the “Queen of Ukraine” in Harris’ article. As she notes, “It is quite common for Christians, and even people of other faiths, to ask Mary to intercede on their behalf during hardship.” Let us pray.
As fighting and violence escalate in Ukraine Ashley McKinless and James Martin, SJ, explore our inclination to pray, or not, in this moment. What is the point to utter prayers in the face of such an event? The essay is a thoughtful and honest exploration of prayer as a response to current events and I commend it to you: Praying for peace in Ukraine (America Magazine website)
Matthias is named only once in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:21-26). The rest of his story is obscure and sometimes fanciful in the Christian tradition. Nonetheless, it is important to note that he apparently fit Peter’s requirements that to become an apostle with the remaining 11 the man should “have accompanied us (the apostles) during all 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 men must become with us a witness to his resurrection” Acts 1:21-22A
After acknowledging the hand of God in selecting and blessing Matthias to be an apostle, we ask that we—the people of God—may always be guided and governed by faithful and true pastors.
What role do we play in supporting and encouraging and caring for the faithful and true pastors by whom we are guided and governed as God answers our prayer?
The Collect for the Commemoration
Almighty God, who in the place of Judas chose your faithful servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve: Grant that your Church, being delivered from false apostles, may always be guided and governed by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
In the nine days of waiting between Jesus’ Ascension and the Day of Pentecost, the disciples remained together in prayer. During this time, Peter reminded them that the defection and death of Judas had left the fellowship of the Twelve with a vacancy. The Acts of the Apostles records Peter’s proposal that “one of the men who have accompanied us during all 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 men must become with us a witness to his resurrection” (Acts 1:21–22). Two men were nominated, Joseph called Barsabbas who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. After prayer, the disciples cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias, who was then enrolled with the eleven. (See Acts 1:21-26)
Scripture does not relate anything further about Matthias, but gives him as an example to Christians of one whose faithful companionship with Jesus qualifies him to be a suitable witness to the resurrection, and whose service is unheralded and unsung.
There are, however, several early Christian accounts of his mission and ministry, such as the second century text The Acts of Andrew and Matthias in Cannibal City. According to this account, immediately after the selection of Matthias, the apostles cast lots to determine which of them would take responsibility for which part of the world, and the unlucky Matthias was dispatched to a city of cannibals! Although an unabashedly fictionalized account, it is nevertheless an inspiring tale that shows Matthias being dealt the worst possible lot, and yet nevertheless responding to his call with equanimity, competence, and grace, which are the same qualities we see reflected in the canonical account that is given by Scripture.
Saint Matthias The Apostle in Lesser Feasts and Fasts, Revision 2018
Lots in the Ancient World
Ancient peoples used lot-casting as a form of cleromancy—a type of divination in which the random outcome was believed to reflect divine will. Ancients commonly used small stones labeled to reflect the possible outcomes of the decision (Lindblom, “Lot-casting,” 168). The Bible contains no description of the specific procedure for casting lots, undoubtedly due to the commonplace nature of the practice. Based on etymology, Kitz suggests the Israelites likely placed marked stones into a container, which was then shaken in such a way as to “cast” out a deciding stone (Kitz, “Terminology,” 207–14). Hittite and Akkadian texts also indicate that the casting of stones was used to determine an oracular answer to a series of questions (Kitz, “Urim and Thumim,” 401–10).
Usage in the New Testament
The New Testament contains few references to the use of lots. However, the attested uses reflect the Hebrew mindset regarding divine involvement with the decision:
Zechariah was chosen by lot for a rotation in the temple service (Luke 1:9)
Peter used lots and prayer to determine a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:15–26).
Soldiers cast lots to divide Jesus’ garments after His crucifixion (John 19:24). This is perhaps the most secular use of lots in the Bible.
Source: Rob Fleenor, “Lots,” in The Lexham Bible Dictionary, ed. John D. Barry et al. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).
Matthias (Great Cloud of Witnesses website curated by The Rev. Ken Howard)
In the Collect for this Commemoration, we praise God for giving us a servant who is described as holy and gentle. And we praise God for giving this holy and gentle servant “boldness to confess Jesus Christ as King and Savior, and steadfastness to die for his faith.”
We ask for the grace to follow the example of Polycarp which will include sharing the cup of Christ (sorrow and suffering) and rising to eternal life. The prayer invites us to examine our actions (do they reveal us as one who serves, one who is seeking holiness, one who is gentle in a not-so-gentle world) and our trust in God no matter the circumstances (for there are many ways to “share the cup of Christ” short of martyrdom). What do you hear the Spirit saying to you?
The Collect for the Commemoration
O God, the maker of heaven and earth, you gave your venerable servant, the holy and gentle Polycarp, boldness to confess Jesus Christ as King and Savior, and steadfastness to die for his faith: Give us grace, following his example, to share the cup of Christ and rise to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Polycarp was one of the leaders of the Church who carried on the tradition of the apostles through the troubled period of Gnostic heresies in the second century. According to Irenaeus, who had known him in his early youth, Polycarp was a pupil of John, “the disciple of the Lord,” and had been appointed a bishop by “apostles in Asia.”
[…] Polycarp was burned at the stake. Before his ordeal, he is reported to have looked up to heaven, and to have prayed: “Lord God Almighty, Father of your beloved and blessed child Jesus Christ, through whom we have received knowledge of you, God of angels and hosts and all creation, and of the whole race of the upright who live in your presence, I bless you that you have thought me worthy of this day and hour, to be numbered among the martyrs and share in the cup of Christ, for resurrection to eternal life, for soul and body in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. Among them may I be accepted before you today, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice just as you, the faithful and true God, have prepared and foreshown and brought about. For this reason and for all things I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you, through the eternal heavenly high priest Jesus Christ, your beloved child, through whom be glory to you, with him and the Holy Spirit, now and for the ages to come. Amen.”
In a blog post for the Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS) the Rev. Dr. Rachel Marsh sets out “four things” that give her hope in 2017. I’m with her in being filled with hope; I especially liked “thing” #3. ~Fr. Dan
Was 2016 the year that fear and hatred won? Looking to the future, many people are filled with concern, particularly about the environment – a cause close to my heart. … We feel powerless – powerless to stop governments who say climate change is a myth; powerless to stop its impact on the most vulnerable.
And yet, we are people of faith. What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead. (Hebrews 11:1 Living Bible). We know what we want to happen. How can we be assured it will happen?
On October 5th we shared the ACNS reporting of Archbishop Deng’s challenge to the Church. He was speaking to Anglicans in South Africa (and to all women and men of goodwill). The Church in South Africa has responded.
The Anglican Church in Southern Africa has committed itself to form a partnership with the Episcopal Church in Sudan, with which it shares membership of the Anglican Communion.
The commitment to pursue a ‘partners in mission’ relationship was made by the church’s Provincial Synod, meeting this week in Benoni, South Africa. I
t came in response to the address given by the Archbishop of Sudan, the Most Revd Dr Daniel Deng Bul, who has been a guest of the Provincial Synod, and of the Synod of Bishops which preceded it.
On Sunday (10/6) we will take a closer look at 2 Timothy 1:1-14 (the lesson appointed for worship). Among other things we’ll hear, anew, the Apostle’s exhortation: “rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. (vv. 6-7 NRSV). Overall this letter exhorts Timothy (and us) to continue to trust the God who has called us and blessed us and sent us into the world to share God’s love.
In the midst of this study comes this challenge from the Primate of the Episcopal Church of Sudan (ministries exist in both Sudan and South Sudan). It is a reminder that being Christian is not always easy and that trusting God is not always easy and that prayer needs to be concurrent with action.
The Primate of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, the Most Revd Daniel Deng Bul Yak has challenged the worldwide Anglican Communion to actively help the war-affected people of South Sudan.
He was speaking in an exclusive interview with ACNS in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he is attending the Anglican Church of Southern Africa’s Provincial Synod as special guest.
The Primate complained that the Anglican Church in South Sudan felt it was struggling alone and not receiving adequate support from other Member Churches. “People are just saying we are supporting you in prayers, but prayers must be followed by action.
“We need good education and health and there are a lot of experienced people within the Anglican Communion who can come and help us,” he said. “We need missionaries to come and set up schools and health centres in South Sudan. There is a lot that Anglicans can do to help.” (Anglican Communion News Service, ACNS)
Today the chimes sound questions. What do you hear?
Was Job an explorer?
My own peculiar task in my Church and in my world has been that of the solitary explorer who, instead of jumping on all the latest bandwagons at once, is bound to search the existential depths of faith in its silences, its ambiguities, and in those certainties which lie deeper than the bottom of anxiety. In those depths there are no easy answers, no pat solutions to anything. It is a kind of submarine life in which faith sometimes mysteriously takes on the aspect of doubt, when, in fact, one has to doubt and reject conventional and superstitious surrogates that have taken the place of faith
—Thomas Merton in Faith and Violence quoted in Seeds edited by Robert Inchausti
Was Job a mystic?
Bernard McGinn says that mysticism is “a consciousness of the presence of God that by definition exceeds description and . . . deeply transforms the subject who has experienced it.” If it does not deeply change the lifestyle of the person—their worldview, their economics, their politics, their ability to form community—you have no reason to believe it is genuine mystical experience. It is often just people with an addiction to religion itself, which is not that uncommon.
Mysticism is not just a change in some religious ideas or affirmations, but it is an encounter of such immensity that everything else shifts in position. Mystics have no need to exclude or eliminate others precisely because they have experienced radical inclusivity of themselves into something much bigger. They do not need to define themselves as enlightened or superior, whereas a mere transfer of religious assertions often makes people even more elitist and more exclusionary.
True mystics are glad to be common, ordinary, servants of all, and “just like everybody else,” because any need for specialness has been met once and for all.
Give me strength to live another day;
Let me not turn coward before its difficulties or prove recreant to its duties;
Let me not lose faith in other people;
Keep me sweet and sound of heart, in spite of ingratitude, treachery, or meanness;
Preserve me from minding little stings or giving them;
Help me to keep my heart clean, and to live so honestly and fearlessly that no outward failure can dishearten me or take away the joy of conscious integrity;
Open wide the eyes of my soul that I may see good in all things;
Grant me this day some new vision of thy truth;
Inspire me with the spirit of joy and gladness;
and make me the cup of strength to suffering souls;
in the name of the strong Deliverer, our only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
We continue to listen to Job’s story. The Spirit moves the chimes (or not). Is it a persistent sound in the chimes? Is it still and quiet? What do you hear?
I remember sitting parked by the roadside once, terribly depressed and afraid about my daughter’s illness and what was going on in our family, when out of nowhere a car came along down the highway with a license plate that bore on it the one word out of all the words in the dictionary that I needed most to see exactly then. The word was TRUST. What do you call a moment like that? Something to laugh off as the kind of joke life plays on us every once in a while? The word of God? I am willing to believe that maybe it was something of both, but for me it was an epiphany. The owner of the car turned out to be, as I’d suspected, a trust officer in a bank, and not long ago, having read an account I wrote of the incident somewhere, he found out where I lived and one afternoon brought me the license plate itself, which sits propped up on a bookshelf in my house to this day. It is rusty around the edges and a little battered, and it is also as holy a relic as I have ever seen.
The number of Americans who say they have no religious affiliation has hit an all-time high — about one in five American adults — according to a new study released Tuesday (Oct. 9) by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. … Pew partnered with the PBS television series Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly to survey 500 additional unaffiliated Americans. Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly will air a three-part series about the unaffiliated beginning with its Oct. 12 broadcast. —Religion News Service 10/9/2012
Whether we “like it” or not this is where we live now. As people in relationship with God we live and move and work and play among those who are not so sure or who believe there is no God. What are we to make of this new landscape? It is a topic worth exploring in our homes, in our Forum, and in our church.
Give me, O Lord, a steadfast heart, which no unworthy affection may drag downwards; give me an unconquered heart, which no tribulation can wear out; give me an upright heart, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside. Bestow on me also, O Lord my God, understanding to know Thee, diligence to seek Thee, wisdom to find Thee, and a faithfulness that may finally embrace Thee. Amen. —Saint Thomas Aquinas
“This is not what we were praying for, but this is what God sent.” After last night’s [5/23/12] In Good Faith podcast with Jane Knuth, I couldn’t get these words out of my head. … Late into the night I thought about this story and about the various reactions I’ve had when God’s response to me was unfathomable at the time. Sometimes I felt disappointed, confused, frustrated. Other times I had a good laugh, a new way to look at a situation, a deep sense of trust.
Sometime after midnight, I started to imagine God as the host of a TV game show called Jeopardy. On the show, the contestants get an answer first, and then they have to come up with the right question. It made me smile to think that maybe God is always giving me answers, and that maybe my prayers are actually questions.
What are some of the reactions you’ve had to God’s response to your prayers? What image of God and prayer does it bring to mind for you?
With Sister Maine I ask you “What are some of the reactions you’ve had to God’s response to your prayers?” I have experienced disappointment, confusion, and frustration—as she has. I would add disorientation, bitterness, and despair.
Fortunately God’s “angel” (messenger) has often been timely in arriving and helping me back to trust (in God’s love, and in God’s joy), back to hope (that with God all things are possible and all things will work toward the good), and back to that Peace that passes all understanding. Waiting for the angel, doing the work, takes patience. I know.
Please leave a comment, help me to hear your story, let us together fashion our story.