150517 Acts 1:15-26

Last Updated on Sunday, 17 May 2015 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Acts 1:15-26
Theme: A Model Call Meeting

How did I get here today? I'm not talking about the ten minute drive that took me from Westshore Rd to Highway P to Wisconsin Ave. And I'm not talking about the short step I took into the pulpit a few moments ago. The question I am asking you to consider goes much deeper than that. How did I get to be in this position? Why is there a sign on my office door that says Pastor Pagels? Why am I wearing this white robe? What gives me the right to preach to you? Who gave me the right to announce that your sins are forgiven?

You did. Almost three years ago as a group of Christians at St. Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Oconomowoc you called me to be your pastor, to preach and teach and administer the sacraments in accordance with God's Word. You are the reason I am standing here right now. But you are not the only reason.

According to the documents I received when I was called to serve at St. Matthew's, you extended to me a divine call. You recognized that God himself led you to call me. The apostle Paul recognized the same thing when he wrote that "it was he (God) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers" (Ephesians 4:11). And the Lord of the church still works through his church to call church workers today.

Our synod celebrates this cooperative effort between God and God's people about this time every year. Yesterday was Call Day at Martin Luther College, where three members of St. Matthew's received calls to serve in the teaching ministry. And next Thursday will be Call Day at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, when thirty men will be called, Lord willing, to serve in the pastoral ministry.

Some of us here have attended a service when these call assignments were announced, but very few, if any of us, have ever been present when the assignments were actually made. Did you ever wonder how that happens? Who does the important work of matching up congregations with called workers, and how do they do it? Do they look for signs? Do they wait for divine revelation? Do they spin a big wheel? Do they throw darts at names on a board?

God's Word doesn't dictate exactly how congregations should proceed when they call their spiritual leaders, but in the first chapter of Acts the Lord gives us an example of how it was done in the early church. Just a few days after Jesus had ascended into heaven, his disciples came together to fill an important ministry position. And this gathering could be called...


I. They identified the need
II. They determined the qualifications
III. They appealed to the Lord

Before we can take a seat at this call meeting, we need to understand what is meant when we talk about a "call." In one sense every Christian has been called. The apostle Peter, speaking to Christians in general, put it this way: "You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (1 Peter 2:9).

You and I have been called out of the darkness of unbelief. Our hearts have been illumined with the light of faith. Every Christian man, woman and child, all of us have been called to be lights in the world (Matthew 5:14), to be God's witnesses in the world (Acts 1:8), to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), to serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13).

We have all been called, called to faith in God and called to live for God, but this word can also be used in a more narrow sense. There are times when God calls individuals to serve on behalf of his people. The term that is most often used to describe this specialized work is the "public ministry."

The Lord empowers groups of Christians to call individual Christians to serve as their spiritual leaders, to represent them in the congregation and in the community, to preach sermons and teach their children and reach the lost. So we could say that the Lord gives some Christians two calls: 1) the broad call to faith and service; and 2) the narrow call to serve in a representative role in the church. It was the desire to extend a very specific call that led the disciples to meet in Jerusalem.

Sometimes the need for a called worker comes as the result of good news. For example, about a year ago our congregation called a new sixth grade teacher because Mr. Rosenau accepted a call to serve at Lakeside. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the call meeting in Jerusalem. Peter stood up to remind the rest of Jesus' followers why this meeting was necessary:

"Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus—he was one of our number and shared in this ministry" (16,17). And then in rather graphic detail we are told why Judas would not be coming back: "(With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and his intestines spilled out)" (18). And then Peter, after quoting two different psalms, proposed that they choose someone to fill the position that had been vacated by Judas.

Luke (who is the author of Acts) doesn't tell us how the disciples came to this decision. I imagine that they could have functioned as the eleven apostles, but I can also imagine a conversation that went something like this: "When the Lord appointed the Twelve he knew what he was doing. There were twelve tribes of Israel; there should be twelve disciples. To honor our nation's history, to honor our Savior's memory, we will preserve that number." And that is exactly what they did.

The disciples identified a need and they took steps to fill it. This is one of the blessings of gospel ministry. God has given us the command to "go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation" (Mark 16:15). He tells us what to do, but he doesn't tell us how to do it. He gives us the responsibility to be his witnesses, but he also gives us the freedom to decide what form our witness will take. That is why congregations need to look at the unique opportunities God places before them. That is why congregations may decide to call senior pastors or outreach pastors or teachers or staff ministers to seize those opportunities.

When the disciples decided to add a twelfth apostle they understood that this position would require a uniquely qualified individual. And so instead of just appointing the first person who volunteered they came up with a list of qualifications. Peter said: "It is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning with John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection" (21,22).

Before the books of the Bible had been assembled, before the four gospels had been written, the gospel was shared by word of mouth. That's why the disciples needed a reliable witness, a man who had waked and talked with the Lord, a person who could give eyewitness testimony that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. They wanted someone who had been with them from the beginning, someone who would not pick up and run at the first sign of trouble.

This call to apostleship was special, but then again every call is unique. And every call comes with its own unique list of qualifications. Not everyone has the confidence to stand up in front of a large group of people. Not everyone is apt to teach. Not everyone has the patience to be in a room with sixteen three-year-olds. And so when the church extends calls the Lord expects us to use our God given wisdom to match ministry needs with ministerial gifts.

The disciples carefully worked through the qualifications before they called a twelfth apostle, but they also recognized that they were not acting independently. And 21st century Christians would do well to pay attention to this 1st century example. If we start thinking that we are in control, if we start believing that our "success" depends on implementing the right program or picking the right people, then we need to revisit the apostolic model. The disciples identified a need. They determined the qualifications. But finally and most importantly, they appealed to the Lord.

This appeal came in the form of a prayer: "Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which of these two (Joseph or Matthias) you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry" (24,25). The disciples understood that God knows everything. The disciples knew that God had already handpicked a replacement for Judas. The purpose of the meeting was to let everyone else know which man he had chosen.

It is likely that the disciples used the Old Testament method of casting lots. They probably put the names of Joseph and Matthias into a bag and shook it vigorously until one of them popped out. And when the name "Matthias" was read, he became the twelfth apostle.

Usually we associate the casting of lots with games of chance. If you pick the right numbers, you are lucky. If you draw the short straw, you are unlucky. But with God there is no such thing as luck. Proverbs 16:33 says: "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord."

Every choice, every apparent coincidence, every seemingly independent event, everything that happens in this world is a perfectly fitted piece in God's master plan of salvation. He devised that plan before the creation of the world. He executed that plan when he sent his one and only Son into the world. He announces the success of that plan as he calls and sends workers to share the gospel in every corner of the world.

And that important work started in Jerusalem. It began with people like Peter and James and John...and Matthias. They announced: "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins" (Acts 2:38). They declared: "God raised him (Jesus) from the dead. We are witnesses of this" (Acts 3:15). They proclaimed: "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). And two thousand years later the Lord of the church continues to call workers to proclaim the same life giving message.

It is somewhat unusual to devote an entire sermon to the doctrine of the call, but it is worth it. I pray that our review of this model call meeting in Acts has given you a better understanding of and a deeper appreciation for this important teaching. And as you leave today I encourage you to give thanks. Give thanks for the twelve disciples of Jesus. Give thanks because you are a disciple of Jesus. Give thanks because God has called you. And give thanks for the men and women God has called to serve you. Amen.

Our Mission Statement:

Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.


Worship Schedule

8:00 A.M. & 10:30 A.M.

9:15 A.M. Bible Study for All Ages

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St. Matthew's Lutheran Church
818 West Wisconsin Avenue
Oconomowoc, WI 53066




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