31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
May 21, 2023
Acts 1:12-14, 23-26
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Talking things out with a trusted person; Making a pros and cons list; Asking a Magic 8 Ball. There are lots of ways to make decisions in life – both the big and small.
In today’s scripture passage from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear of the Christian community making a rather large decision – who should replace Judas as the twelfth apostle? Who should take this place in ministry and church leadership?
In the same way their forebears had made important decisions, in the same way that many other cultures had made important decisions, the Christian community cast lots. Mentioned 47 times in the Bible, casting lots was essentially drawing straws. In one place, they might toss out colored stones. In another place, they might write names on pieces of pottery and draw one out of a basket.
To our modern ears, this might sound as random as letting the flip of a coin decide overtime in a professional football game (oh, sorry, that’s my pet peeve with the NFL overtime rules). Still, could you imagine the flip of a coin deciding what you should do in life, where you should live, who you should partner with, what you should name your child? No, we would never let important decisions be left to the chance of a coin flip, the randomness of a Magic 8 Ball toy.
That early Christian community did not leave such an important decision to chance either. In a verse I did not read you, Peter invites the community to choose a man from those who have been with the disciples and Jesus from the beginning. Peter invites the believers to choose from those who have already shown themselves to be faithful, steadfast, and true. Peter invites them to choose from amongst a group who is known to them, whose characters, gifts and talents were known to them.
So in a way, even if they chose by random, there would be no bad choice. There could be no wrong choice. I am sure that both Justus as well as Matthias were both men of deep faith and strong moral character. Likely both were very well qualified to join the eleven in being apostles, messengers of the good news of God’s love.
Even though both men would likely be a good choice; still this important decision was not left to chance. Because before the believers cast lots, they did one really important thing. They did one essential thing – something we should all do before making decisions big and small.
They prayed. They were a community rooted in prayer. They were a community that set aside time to talk with God and listen to God. They constantly prayed together, trusting God, always being open to God’s still speaking, always guiding voice.
And that was no different when it came to making a big decision like who should be a leader in ministry. The community proposed two men and then they prayed together. They prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship.” (Acts 1:24-25) ‘Holy God, You know everything. You know our hearts and our minds. You know what is the right path forward for us. Guide us. Make Your will known to us.’
From the very beginning, the Church of Jesus Christ has prayed about all decisions large and small. From the beginning, the community of Jesus Christ has paused to pray, paused to talk to God, paused to listen to God.
And it is that pause, that listening, that is especially important because pausing, patience is the enemy of fear. Anxiety does not want you to pause. Fearfulness does not want you to slow things down. Anxiety and fear want you to react from a place of uncertainty rather than respond from a place of thoughtfulness. Anxiety and fear want you to listen to them and not pause to pray and listen to God.
We do not belong to anxiety and fear though. We belong to God, and so when it comes to decisions, large and small, we take the time to slow things down. We take time to listen to God’s voice through the wisdom of others. We take time to listen to God’s voice through the silence. We take time to pray.
It is not easy to be a people of prayer. It is not easy to say to others – ‘I can’t make that decision right now’ or ‘I don’t think we should make that decision right now’ – until I pray about it, until we pray about it.
It’s not easy to push back against fear and anxiety and be a people of prayer, waiting on God, trusting in God, listening for God, and yet, we do it anyway. We take the time to talk to God, to listen to God because we know, we know from experience that when we do, incredible things happen.
Those decisions that we angst about – what to do with our lives, where to live, who to partner with, what to name our children – all of these decisions become clearer, become clearer because God shows us the way.
Prayer is powerful. Prayer centers us when life feels chaotic. Prayer grounds us in God and helps us soar on the wings of the Spirit. Prayer carries us through the most challenging moments, and prayer gives us direction. Prayer gives us God’s direction.
Prayer connects us with God and through that connection, we are blessed with peace of heart and peace of mind as we make decisions both large and small and walk this journey of life and faith.