May has many red letter days. This year Ascension Day falls on Thursday the 18th , with the feast of Pentecost, the church’s birthday on Sunday the 28th. We have another notable birthday to mark – congratulations to our Reader Gerry who turns 60 on the 4th. Following the Lord obviously keeps a person looking young! Wishing you many blessings Gerry.
On the 6th May our country and Commonwealth will celebrate another great event – the coronation of King Charles III. We hope you can join us for our ‘Big Lunch’ with entertainment on Sunday 7th after the morning service. It promises to be a wonderful occasion.
Another special date this month is the feast day of St Matthias, Apostle, which is on the 14th. Who? I hear you ask! Matthias was the guy who took over the spot left vacant after Judas died. Do you remember how he got the job? Acts 1:26 tells us that lots were cast to choose between him and Joseph, son of Barsabbas, also known as Justus.
Making decisions by lot is well attested to in the Bible. Proverbs 16:33 states; “The lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is the Lord’s alone.” In the book of Jonah we are told that the sailors cast lots to find out the cause of the terrible storm that threatened their lives: “‘Come, let us cast lots, so that we may know on whose account this calamity has come upon us.’ So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.” (Jonah 1:7)
The writer of Psalm 22:18 laments the ‘evildoers’ who ‘divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.’ All four gospel writers tell us that this is exactly what happened to Jesus’ garments after he was crucified.
For ancient peoples the casting of lots was not the arbitrary tossing of a coin or rolling of dice we might imagine, but an important way of discerning the will of God. Even today some Christian communities use this method. Our friends at St Mary and St Shenouda in Rickman Hill belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church. They use lots in the final stages of choosing their pope, a process that last took place in November 2012 when Pope Tawadros II was appointed. Some of us had the honour of meeting him when he visited Coulsdon back in 2017.
The leader of the Methodist movement, Charles Wesley, is known to have used lots. In 1744 he was on his way to visit a community of believers when he was informed that a constable awaited him with a warrant for “speaking treasonable words.” When he got there poor Charles did not know what to do. Should he stay and face the music? Should he ride off p.d.q.? As he put it; “I knew not how to determine, but by lot. We prayed, and the lot came for my stay.” Fortunately it was proved that the accusation was false and all was well.
Have you ever experienced a time when you had to make a tough decision? Hopefully you weighed up all the options, discussed the matter with trusted friends and prayed for direction. What happened?
Casting lots may not be much in fashion today, but there are worse ways of trying to discern what is right. The important thing is to trust that God is at work and to open ourselves to his leading. To return to the advice given by the wonderful book of Proverbs: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
May we all be guided in the Lord’s way this month, so that we may bear fruit in his name just as the Apostle Matthias did. Esther and Jessie x
Read more from Esther and Jessie, in the May 23 Magazine