St. Matthias is one of my favorite apostles because we know almost nothing about him.
In Acts, Luke tells us that he is a follower of Jesus from the time of Jesus’ baptism through his Ascension. We know of the twelve disciples and even other followers of Jesus like Mary and Martha, but as to Matthias, the gospels don’t even mention him. Everything we know about him, we read about him in the passage we read today from Acts. From that verse forward he’s never mentioned again in the book. When we read the letters of Paul or the other apostles a myriad of other names are mentioned, but not Matthias.
Even when we leave the Scriptures and enter into the legends of church history, the works of Matthias are vague and contradictory. Some legends say he was stoned in Jerusalem, some that he died of old age in Syria, and one legend has that he died in modern-day Georgia on the shores of the Black Sea. We don’t know what happened to him. He left no writings and there are no great cathedrals or national churches or even the smallest Christian communities that trace their lineage back to Matthias.
Ecclesiastes rightfully points out to us, that one day we will all die and no one will remember our deeds anymore. I can promise you that Jesus hasn’t called me to be the rock upon which he will build his church, he hasn’t appeared to me and instructed me to go and convert the entire Gentile world to him and to write half the new testament. I will never be a St. Augustine, or a Martin Luther, or a Billy Graham.
I imagine that like St. Matthias, all that I do in service to my God will be forgotten and never be spoken of again. I imagine that this is true for all of you as well.
Father Randy likes to point out that this gathering traces itself back to when an Episcopal congregation was first formed in Myrtle Beach in 1939. How many of us know who those people were? How many of us know the men and women that saw this congregation through the upheavals of the 1960s and the new Prayer Book of the 1970s? Even if we can find out their names, I doubt that we will ever truly know who they were. Some of our older congregants might, but that knowledge will go with them.
But when we celebrate St. Matthias, we also celebrate today these unknown or soon to be forgotten men and women who went before us. Matthias was appointed to go and bear fruit, and that fruit has lasted although we may never know where.
The unknown founders of the Episcopal Church in Myrtle Beach lived into their appointment, and we are that fruit. And on this day of St. Matthias, we celebrate our appointment, and our choosing, and our calling to carry forth the love of Christ into the world knowing that, like St.Matthias, we will not personally be known by those who come after us, but, hopefully, our fruit will be.
Our Presiding Bishop (and our own George Welles) likes to quote from an old spiritual There is a Balm of Gilead. The second verse says:
If you cannot preach like Peter,
if you cannot pray like Paul,
you can tell the love of Jesus
and say, “He died for all.”
That was the calling of St. Matthias. He didn’t preach like Peter and he didn’t write like Paul. But that is our calling as well. Not to be famous or well-known or well-read but to carry on the love of Jesus to those around us and to bear fruit that will last for those who will come after us.
St. Mathias represents all of those saints who are fruitful servants of the Kingdom, but whose names and deeds will only be known by Christ himself.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.