St Matthias 2012.
I have always had – that is to say, for the last ten minutes - a great interest in the person of Matthias. If ever there was a man with a cause to be paranoid it was he. I mean, the precise distinction between the Apostles and the Disciples is a fluid one – the lists within the Gospels differ – but to find yourself suddenly moved from one group to the other at the toss of a coin can't do much for your sense of self-worth. Everyone else (even Paul, that johnny-come-lately of the full set of teaspoons) gets the personal message from Jesus. Poor Matthias has to make do with the considerably less elevated option of being promoted by (effectively) a game of 'heads and tails'. Not good for the ego.
But perhaps there's something in the call of Matthias which speaks to us, and causes us that delightful admixture of both dread at being bounced into something we're not sure we can do and humility in the knowledge that, when push came to shove, our being chosen didn't appear to be anything whatsoever to do with our merits. Matthias and Barsabbas appear to be dead-heat candidates, and whatever the difference is between them it's not evident to anyone except, apparently, the Holy Spirit. 'Thank you gentlemen, we've read your CV's with great interest and would like you to answer one simple question. Heads or Tails?'
So there we are, the pattern of vocation. We've no idea whatsoever why we're called to be disciples, against the grain of the rest of society. We can't see anything particularly special in us that calls this out of us. Why us and not someone else?
It's disturbing - we thought we know ourselves, we have to own up either to being faced with something we don't think we can live up to, or alternatively accept that there's some bit of us which neither we, nor perhaps anyone else, seems to be able to spot, and that we're failing to grasp some essential bit of our own selves.
And at the same time it sweeps away any sense of big-headedness. Vocation's nothing to do with me, however it manifests itself, and it certainly doesn't seem to chime in particularly with what I might see as my great and unique gifts to the universe. Chosen arbitrarily, by the toss of a coin, as it were – it doesn't do a right lot for our sense of self-importance.
And yet these are good starting places for adult discipleship. It all narrows down to a simple truth that's hard to learn – that it is all grace, that God calls and does the donkey-work, and all we can do is to follow in the hope that we've not got the call round our necks. We can't imagine why we're called, and we're far from convinced that we can live up to the calling. But called we are, against all our expectations and even against all reason. Just like Matthias.