First United Methodist Church
Plymouth, Indiana

Being Blessed

First United Methodist Church
May 12th, 2024
Rev. Lauren Hall

Being Blessed

In today’s scripture we find the newly-minted young church leaders in need of a replacement for one of the twelve male disciples who will not be continuing in his role: Judas. The new leader is to be chosen from among the many followers of Jesus who had been with him for his entire ministry.

Now let me just say here that although the church has tended to focus on the twelve male disciples, and one later honorary disciple named Paul, scholars believe there were more than twelve men who accompanied Jesus on his journey from the point of Baptism by John to his ascension, and who witnessed his resurrection. Not all of them were male. Women such as Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha, and other women likely accompanied Jesus throughout his entire ministry. Women such as Phoebe and Lydia and others founded and led early church communities. Women played a critical role in the development of the Christian faith.

Did the eleven disciples choose the replacement based on his gifts for ministry? Did they make their decision because of his resume, or credentials, or education, or because of previous leadership experience, or a certain skill set, or age, or race, or hair color? No. The only requirement was that he had been a witness from the beginning. Two candidates were proposed. They prayed for the Lord to show them the one that was chosen, and then they cast lots. Don’t you think that this is an odd way to show your trust in God?

I think casting lots must have meant something different in Jesus’ day. In the Bible, we read about casting lots for various purposes, such as dividing land, assigning priestly duties, or determining if Jonah was responsible for the rough seas that put the sailors’ lives at risk. The practice itself is similar to modern-day coin flipping, where chance determines the outcome. But casting lots was much more complicated. It involved using various objects like stones, sticks or tokens, which were thrown or drawn to produce a random result. This method was believed to reveal divine guidance, as the outcome was not influenced by human choice.


How willing are we to trust in God’s provision for God’s church? Let’s try it. Who wants to be the next Trustee Chair? We’ll go by elimination – hands on your head if you want heads, on your hips if you want tails. It’s heads. How many of you are still in? Shall we try again?


I’m not suggesting that the church should select its leaders by flipping a coin. We need leaders with education and experience. But it is important to recognize that this ancient practice did allow leaders to render an impartial, unbiased decision on important matters. Once the lot was cast, no one could argue that the decision was the result of human intervention like nepotism, politics, favoritism, and so on. According to Proverbs, “Casting lots causes contentions to cease, and keeps the mighty apart.” (Proverbs 18:18). This impartial practice stops arguments and contentions between people and could possibly prevent them from occurring in the first place.


The problem is that in today’s world, people spend an awful lot of energy trying to turn the odds to their favor. Waiting on the will of God requires having an awful lot of trust and acceptance. And this isn’t an easy thing because most of us have been betrayed more than once. The good news, though, is that the Lord knows the hearts of God’s people.


The gospel that we read today contains a portion of the instructions Jesus gave the disciples on the night he was betrayed and arrested. It’s a prayer, and as Jesus prays he hands us over to God and asks God to let us live and work in this world, but as signs of God’s presence, pointing beyond the world in which we work. This text also raises the question—again—of what it means to glorify God. Jesus says that he has been glorified in all that belongs to him—and that includes you and me! Amazingly, though, it doesn’t seem that we have to do much of anything for Christ to be glorified through us except receive God’s blessing and believe.

Remember that this evening began with Jesus taking up his basin and towel as he prepared to wash the disciples’ feet. As Peter stands before Jesus and refuses to be washed, he learns how difficult and how wondrous Christ’s blessing truly is. He resists at first, then allows himself to receive, the grace of Christ offered in a way that impacts him for the rest of his life.

When Jesus has finished the washing, put on his robe, put away his towel and bowl, he turns to them and says, “Do you know what I have done to you?…If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you,” Jesus continues, “servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”

A few months later, Peter finds himself in a home of gentiles, eating and drinking with them after he orders their baptism. He had been through some trials, but Jesus knew Peter’s heart. He was redeemed on the beach, and now Peter has learned to wash other’s feet, to offer the blessing and grace of Jesus Christ in his ministry to the world.

Christ’s joy is not completed until we let his love do its work within us and then pass it along, an offering grounded in the love that Jesus goes on to speak of that night. Yet we cannot do this—as the disciples could not do this—until we first allow ourselves to simply receive his blessing as it is offered: as a gift, as a promise, or as sign of a world made whole.

Mother’s Day is a good day to think about this. It is a day we set aside to honor mothers for their dedication and commitment to their children and their families. It is a day we celebrate women who daily share the kind of love that Jesus describes with the children they call their own. Not all women will become mothers, and not all mothers are the perfect mothers that we discover sometimes in books and movies. But Jesus doesn’t care about that – he blesses mothers so that they can pass these blessings on to their children. Our mothers provide our first experience in life, as they shelter us in the space of their own body. Sometimes the mother who raises us is different from the mother who gives birth to us, but regardless of how our reality plays out, our mothers offer us the gift of life and that is something that we should celebrate.

On this Mother's Day, I celebrate and give thanks for my own mother—the mother who gave me life whose name I do not know, and also the mother who raised me, Roberta Ann Stevens-Hall—and I also give thanks for all the mothers who have been able to provide the gift of life and the gift of living. And I offer prayers for those women who, for whatever reason have struggled with motherhood or otherwise suffered. For those who choose to enter into the empty, motherless places—the "othermothers" who come in the form of teachers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, neighbors, friends—bless you and thank you for your mothering hearts. May the grace of Jesus Christ be forever intertwined within your hearts. Amen.