Casting Lots

This Sunday between Ascension Day and Pentecost, my congregation is exploring the story of Mathias chosen to replace Judas (Acts 1:12-26). It’s the end of the story that I am thinking about:

“So they proposed two…Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed and said, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry…And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Mathias.”

“Casting lots” is referenced in the Bible around 45 times. When I was a kid, I thought “casting lots” was about splitting up property or clothing. But really, it is about religious gambling. “The primary reason for casting lots was to render an impartial, unbiased decision on important matters.” Rolling snack eyes, flipping a coin, or drawing the short straw would be similar practices.

Right now, it feels like drawing the short straw ends in tragedy. What should be a delightful invitation for Mathias to join the 11 disciples maybe he felt like it was doomsday since the devil was at-work in the heart of Judas. And THAT’s the person he is replacing. Evil seems to lurk around every corner; in the past 2 weeks, there have been shootings in Buffalo, New York at a shopping market and in Uvalde, Texas at Robb Elementary School. Can you imagine being the one chosen through the cast of lots, the roll of the die, or drawing the short straw, chosen to love on God’s people with God’s story of redemption, forgiveness, and unending love for them when it feels like the devil is winning? Maybe you already feel this way?

As followers of Christ, we are called to love on God’s people, practice forgiveness, and live with this unending love in our hearts. This is hard not easy work in a time such as this, when it feels heavy to send our children to school or stop by the store for some milk. Fear of rolling the die or drawing the short straw can make us feel stuck. So to help us get unstuck or just manage the everyday life, I suggest we practice what I call pipe cleaner prayers. Strange as it sounds, we can use everyday objects to help focus our minds on what we want to pray about, and when something is in your hands, prayer flows more freely. Here is the 3 step process:

1. To make pipe cleaner prayers, gather whatever pipe cleaners you have. The more, the merrier! (For my families at church, if they need some, we will have them available at church.)

2. Think about what word or symbol you and your family can concentrate on for the world and that is part of the work of being God’s creation. Use words like love, peace, joy, help, song or make hearts, peace signs, or music notes.

We hung our word on a door in the house.

3. Place the pipe cleaner word or symbol in a place where you can see it daily. When you want to pray, hold on to the pipe cleaners and rub the fuzziness between your fingers. Use this prayer to pray for things that you want to lift up: Dear God, bring [use your pipe cleaner word or symbol] today for a world in need. Amen.

Prayer is one way to control the fear in our lives, to give our fear to God and to pray for what we yearn for: love, peace, joy, life.

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