Scripture of the Day  May 16, 2021
Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

A replacement for Judas
15 During this time, the family of believers was a company of about one hundred twenty persons. Peter stood among them and said, 16 “Brothers and sisters, the scripture that the Holy Spirit announced beforehand through David had to be fulfilled. This was the scripture concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 This happened even though he was one of us and received a share of this ministry.”

21 “Therefore, we must select one of those who have accompanied us during the whole time the Lord Jesus lived among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when Jesus was taken from us. This person must become along with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 So they nominated two: Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.24 They prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s deepest thoughts and desires. Show us clearly which one you have chosen from among these two 25 to take the place of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.” 26 When they cast lots, the lot fell on Matthias. He was added to the eleven apostles.

1 John 5:10, 11-12

10 The one who believes in God’s Son has the testimony within; 11 And this is the testimony: God gave eternal life to us, and this life is in his Son. 12 The one who has the Son has life.

Reflection/Sermon:

I.      Since we’ve been streaming our services, I haven’t used sermons titles.  But this week, a title jumped out at me:   The Mohegan Sun, and God’s Son.

II.      This idea for this title comes from our scripture reading this morning.  The method used to pick the disciple to replace Judas was, literally, a crap shoot — which the Bible calls casting lots.

III.    In ancient times, people threw dice, coins, polished sticks, stones with symbols painted on them — into  a small area and the results were interpreted.
        In Israel, the High Priest would sometimes cast lots to determine important decisions.  The outcome of the toss of the dice was considered God’s will, which no one could argue.  Proverbs 16:33 says:  "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”
        In the Bible, lots were cast
to determine the selection of the scapegoat each year.  (Leviticus 16:8-10).
The allocation of land for each tribe in the Promised Land (Numbers 26:55,56; Joshua 14:2; Judges 1:3) 
Deciding which warriors had to go to war where only a percentage was required (Jgs 20:9; Neh. 11:1);
the order of the priests and their duties:  (1 Chronicles 24:5-19; Nehemiah 10:34);
the determination of an offender (Joshua 7:14-18; Proverbs 18:18).”
When Jesus was crucified, soldiers cast lots to divide up his clothing among themselves.   

IV.     It seems random, but conflicts, even wars, were prevented  just by throwing dice. Proverbs says: “Casting lots causes contentions to cease, and keeps the mighty apart.” (18:18) Casting lots is impartial, so people can’t argue.  Have you ever seen a football team argue the umpire’s coin toss? 
        Can you imagine all that would get done in Washington if congress and the senate would cast lots occasionally?

V.      There was an important decision the disciples had to make which would determine the outcome of Christianity — it was history-altering.  Judas’ vacancy in the ranks of the disciples needed to be filled.  There were certain requirements:  the person had to be someone who accompanied Jesus and the disciples the whole time of Jesus’ ministry, from the time of his baptism to his execution.  And the person had to be a witness to Jesus’ resurrection.  Two men were nominated:  “Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.”

VI.     Right away, I’m suspicious of Joseph — why did he use so many names?  Was he hiding from the law? Was he Joseph, or Barsabbas or Justus?  How many more names did he have?

VII.    In a way, this all seems kind of superstitious.  When I applied to seminary.  I had to write essays, send transcripts, references from professors, priests, ministers— my evaluation from the University of Chicago Hospitals and Clinics where I did my chaplaincy.  A LOT of paperwork.
        Instead of all that, I could have met with the registrar of the seminary and thrown dice.  If the number seven comes up before the number five is thrown, I’m accepted.  If five comes up first — sorry — it’s not God’s will.

VIII.   But there’s an underlying belief here that we need to understand.  People in the ancient world believed that there were no accidents in life — everything happens according to God’s plan.  Read the book of Job — all his suffering seemed so unfair and random — UNTIL THE END, when Job became enlightened, then it made sense.
        Ecclesiastes says, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”  Our lives unfold, mysteriously, according to God’s purposes.  What seems like chance and accident, isn’t.

IX.     YOU COULD SAY THAT EVERY DAY OF OUR LIVES IS A CRAPSHOOT.  We wake up each morning and cast our lots and see what each day brings.  WE do our best to walk with Jesus, and TRUST THE OUTCOME, whichever way the dice fall — WILL BE GOOD.  Because we trust God. 
         That’s why Jesus said we don’t have to worry about tomorrow.  Julian of Norwich, an English mystic in the Middle Ages, said it this way:
All shall be well,
And all shall be well,
And all manner of things shall be well.