In the Book of Acts, 1: 15-26, in between the stories of the Ascension (read this year on June 5th) and Pentecost (June 12th) we find the Minutes of a Meeting among the disciples. The eleven had important business to take care of. Judas had resigned, so they had a Vacancy to fill on the Apostleship Board. Acting as a Committee of the Whole, they proposed two candidates: Justus and Matthias. As far as we know they conducted no interviews, did no background checks and contacted no references. Instead, they prayed: “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”
Then it gets really interesting: rather than waiting for God to speak to them through a discussion, a vote, or a voice in their hearts, they cast lots – the ancient equivalent of drawing straws. Discerning God’s will through casting lots was a long-standing tradition in ancient Israel, but it seems odd to us. We consider it a game of chance or an impartial way of assigning an unpopular (or favorite) task. The disciples, however, trusted that -- with prayer -- God would guide them with this concrete sign. And when the lot fell on Matthias, he was added to the eleven disciples.
I’m not suggesting that we fill board vacancies through the drawing of straws (as attractive as that may sound to the Nominating Committee). I’m not suggesting anyone make important life decisions by pulling petals off daisies. But perhaps we have something to learn from this story: that God does not always speak to us through an epiphany, or through a feeling at the time of prayer. God’s will for us may unfold through the concrete details of our everyday lives, in ways that surprise us. And if we miss the signs (and how often we do!) there’s always a way back, and often many paths we can take that are pleasing to God.
The important part is the prayer. Luke says the early apostles, including the women, “were constantly devoting themselves to prayer.” May we ground ourselves in prayer like them, both in our own lives and in our life together.
Grace and Peace,