Dancing on the Head of a Pin

There is a legend of St Thomas Aquinas asking "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" At this blog we ask all questions dealing with our faith and spirituality. Some are down to earth, rubber meets the road questions, while others are more lofty...like, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Friday, February 24, 2006

You Complete Me

Today is the Feast of St Matthias, the apostle chosen to replace Judas. Below is the text of the sermon preached this morning at the Convent of St Helena (preaching to nuns is way different from preaching in a parish!):

God doesn’t seem to like fractions.

God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh; not in two and a half days or in twenty-three and a third. Six days and rested on the seventh.

Enoch lived 365 years. That’s a nice complete number. There are 365 days in year and Enoch lived 365 years, and then God took him to heaven.

After Noah built the ark, it rained 40 days and 40 nights; not 40 days and 39 nights – 40 days and 40 nights.

Jacob had 12 sons that became the 12 tribes.

Those 12 tribes wandered for 40 years in the wilderness with Moses until they came to the Promised Land.

Centuries later St John saw seven seals and seven bowls, and he also saw 12 elders worshipping God in heaven: 12 for the tribes of Israel and 12 for the apostles.

God likes wholeness. God likes completeness.

After the death of Judas the apostles were incomplete. There were only 11. Personally I think 11 is not bad. In my opinion, after you think about all that the 12 men Jesus called went through during their time with Jesus and especially during the Passion of Jesus, losing only 1 is not all that bad.

That is not a single parish in the Episcopal Church that wouldn’t love to that kind of a retention rate. In fact, I’m sure the National Church would love to have that retention rate, only losing one after a crisis. How many members, how many churches have we lost in our own situation over the past 3 years? Certainly more than one, and we haven’t faced anywhere near the kind of adversity the original 12 faced, and they only lost one.

But for a God whose love is perfect and whose mercy is perfect and whose wisdom is perfect, anything incomplete would not do. The Church had to represent the wholeness of God’s salvation. It had to include all the tribes of Israel; it had to include all the people of the earth.

And the Holy Spirit chose Matthias.

We all know who Matthias is, but I doubt most people do. I imagine if we took a poll on Broad Street tonight on who Matthias was, most would probably guess he was a contestant on American Idol.

And Matthias is not presented to us a particularly charismatic figure. He did not preach like Peter or pray like Paul, as the song goes, but he represents to us a most important aspect of God’s nature – God’s desire for completeness and wholeness in all things: the world, the Church, in us.

Because while I may be completely happy with 11 instead of 12, and while the whole world may be satisfied with 90% instead of 100% - God wants us to be complete. God wants us to be whole. After all, that is the story of the Bible. That is the story of our salvation.


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