Musical Prelude and Service.

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26 & John 17: 6-19
I debated whether or not to tie today’s scripture into the idea of Mother’s Day. At some point I decided not to bend anything out of recognition to make that happen, but all the same, I am going to offer you a small challenge and ask you to see if you can make a connection as I proceed.
So, here we are looking at these two passages – one that involves Jesus’ followers trying to make their first significant decision on their own and their choice to essentially make it a non-decision,
and the other detailing Jesus’s prayer for those disciples in anticipation of him leaving them.
I will confess that frequently I skip over this passage and this prayer of Jesus when it comes up.
I couldn’t even tell you why; except perhaps, sometimes we can get caught in the weeds of looking at things in too much detail. But this week, I found myself looking at in terms of someone expressing their deep love and devotion to a group of friends and followers, and acknowledging their concerns and hopes for their future.
Jesus offers this prayer as he knows he is soon to die. He knows his disciples are going to be charged with carrying on the movement he started but he is also aware of the many ways that movement could go sideways or go completely off the rails. As he says, these people were picked from the world, but because his teaching and guidance are no longer of this world. What does that mean?
They live in the world but are not part of it. I believe – and many have suggested similarly – that Jesus desires his followers are not motivated or moved by the same priorities or values that rule the world. In the time of Jesus, the world is ruled by the Roman Empire. It is a world governed by fear, the threat of violence, greed and self interest; a system of retribution and reciprocity for favours and maintaining honour. It is a society structured around a political and religious pyramid with the emperor at the pinnacle.
Jesus acknowledges that they live in this world, but they are not of it. They shouldn’t be governed by this system.
Without naming him, Jesus notes in this prayer that Judas was destined to be lost. That even though his decisions were his own and he would pay a price for those choices; his choices and actions were inevitable. I find myself wondering if this is a suggestion that Judas was too much of the world, tempted by the values and the wisdom of that world.
And so I find my self reading this prayer as Jesus; imploring God to move and protect these followers whom he dearly loves. That as much as Jesus has worked to prepare them for the life in front of them; that as much has he has taught them and guided them to this point and believes they are ready to strike out on their own, he still has worries. He still fears for them and hopes they are able to follow the path prepared for them.
Jesus is finding his way to let go and send these followers on their way. They have no choice but to live in a world that will tempt them and challenge them. It’s a world that will frequently see them as naïve, or dangerous or weak. It is a world that will try to twist their words and teach to uphold a status quo that marginalizes the weakest and most vulnerable in society. And Jesus prays that his followers can remember who they are and whose they are.
And he also prays that they continue to find the joy that Jesus promises and offers; even as they struggle with this world.
It is this image of Jesus prayer; one that implores that they remember that they are in this work together and they are linked completely through Jesus, that helps me to make sense of the decision to choose a successor for Judas through a game of chance.
As I said earlier, this is essentially the first major decision the disciples must make following Jesus departure. They must fill their numbers out to twelve once again; one for each tribe of Israel. This movement remains deeply rooted in its Jewish tradition and history.
But I also find myself wondering how much these apostles are aware of the tensions of politics; of the challenges of popularity and the concern they could chose someone based on the so-called wisdom of the world. Do they pick some one who is a good speaker? Someone who is apparently physically powerful? Or someone who is good looking or wealthy? Someone with good connections? Who is the best choice for this significant mission that now sits before these followers?
They have learned just enough and are equipped with a knowledge of Hebrew scripture to know that God is not in the habit of picking the person who would be the consensus choice of earthly authorities. Consider the lessons of the past. Samuel; a child. David; the youngest son of Jesse.
Mary and Elizabeth and John. I mean, even among their number are fishermen, tax collectors, zealots, women.
And so, they choose not to make the decision but leave it to the casting of lots. And I suspect that even there, they are not thinking God will guide the dice, so to speak, so much as God will take what happens and make it right. God will guide the candidates to do what needs to be done and good will grow out of the situation. That even as Jesus was laid in a tomb, God found a way to grow something good out of that dark time.
The disciples did not succumb in this moment to the wisdom of the world. They trusted that God would make things right and they carried God’s message to the world.
These passages – the apostles resorting to the bizarre choice of naming a new member through a game of chance, and Jesus praying that they remain not of this world, can be troubling as we in the modern church try to make decision regarding out future.
How do we serve God but also be wise stewards of the resources entrusted to us?
I don’t necessarily have all or any of the answers, but I think we need to be constantly reminded to consider what our values, or priorities, are meant to be. To remember that we are one connected through and in Christ. We are called to love one another, and to use that as a motivating factor in our choices. And also, to remember that Jesus desires that God’s joy is made complete in us.
How does what we do; how we love and how we receive love bring joy to God’s creation?
How do we remember that in all things God works to make things right?
And so, may we live as agents of God’s joy, and work with God through Jesus the Christ to show a new way of being the world; trusting in God’s love and God’s wisdom instead of turning to the wisdom and values of a world that often forgets the lives of its weakest and most vulnerable.
May we as a community of faith; followers of Jesus the Christ, be a beacon of peace and joy; living out God’s love for the world and offering hope to all those burdened by the fear and anxiety all too often promoted by this world.


Music provided with permission through licensing with CCLI License number
2701258 and One License # A-731789