As a boy I always felt that I was an unlucky person. To be clear not when it came to anything of any particular importance, but whenever we played games or sports at home or at school. Why? Well simply because I always seemed to be the one who got the question I didn’t know when I could answer all the rest; I always seemed to see my fine goal bound effort actually become nothing of the sort, slipping just wide of the post or blocked on the line; I always seemed to be rolling a 1 when in pursuit of my brother’s piece in Ludo, or when tracking down the killer in Cluedo with the result that in both cases the culprit escaped from my clutches and the game was lost, all apparently on such a single roll of the dice.
Of course, when it comes to such things, when it comes to the idea of luck, a very healthy attitude to have is to follow the words of Obi Wan Kenobi in the first Star Wars film A New Hope when he says that in his experience there is no such thing as luck. Because yes, in truth there really isn’t some force that shines down upon some giving them a much-needed break more often than not in life, and that fails to bother with others, leaving them with the thin end of the wedge in the vast majority of circumstances. Naturally you would imagine that the Bible would be another place where we would find such an attitude toward luck as well – or is it?
During the month of May the Church remembers St Mattias, a man who became the new twelfth disciple following the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot and his departure from amongst the ranks of the apostles. As it turns out Mattias and another fellow Joseph called Barsabbus who was known as Justus were proposed to take on the role of the final disciple by the others. Personally, I would have chosen Mattias purely because his name was much less of a mouthful than the long-winded Joseph called Barsabbus, known as Justus. But astonishingly if you read the story of how the loyal followers of Jesus did in fact come to decide between the two of these men in the first chapter of the Book of Acts, then at first reading it could seem that the way they chose was even more arbitrary than this. For as verse 26 of this chapter of Scripture states, “they cast lots for them and the lot fell on Mattias”. Mattias who could then be deemed the lucky disciple. Although given that he, like almost all the rest likely went on to be martyred for his faith this does very much depend on your definition of that key word in my letter today, namely luck.
Of course, there is considerably more to this story than simply the equivalent of playing rock, paper, scissors to make a very important decision in God’s plans. Indeed, and as you would expect the disciples did the exact opposite of leaving such a vital moment in their lives and the life of the church in the hands of sheer chance. Instead in choosing Mattias over his rival (as it is much easier to call him) the disciples actually give us a very valuable lesson in how each and every decision in life should be approached by those who follow God – through asking him, because this is what they did.
As verses 24 and 25 reveal, directly prior to the drawing of lots, the disciples “prayed and said ‘Lord you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen’”. The drawing of lots being then the means by which God’s choice was shown to them.
Life can be something that seems at times to favour some in more than their fair share of occasions and ways. It can be something that seems to see us beaten and battered over and over again by things that really should fall our way or not in a more random fashion. But for those of us who do follow God what we need to see is that whatever we face in our lives, these things can and should be offered to God in prayer. To be clear this by no means saves us from having to face “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” as Shakespeare so eloquently put it, it does not mean that we will not at times feel put upon or tried by circumstances. But what it does mean is that in good times and in bad, when life seems to be surprisingly upbeat or constantly dire we can know that there is someone we can speak to about this, someone who can be there to listen and offer support – God. And more than this, as the disciples show, someone who can be there to ask advise when we have problems or choices to make that perhaps seems beyond us, that seem just too hard to make ourselves. But most importantly, this isn’t a matter of luck, but rather a matter of love; God’s love for us, no matter what we are facing, doing or deciding in our lives. Love which is surely a much better basis for living life than simply trusting in the toss of a coin.
As your people we pray to you.
We pray to you in thanks for your gifts. We pray to you in sorrow and ask for forgiveness. We pray to you in our time of need.
Help us to grow in our love and knowledge of you, that others may see you in our lives and grow closer to you themselves. May we be inspired to be part of a growing community of faith here in this parish.
We ask this all in the name of Jesus, who died and rose again for us and the whole world