studying at st barnabas

The Twelfth Man & The Eighteenth Camel


St Matthias 24 February

There was a time when ordinations in the Diocese of Adelaide were held on St Matthias Day (24th February). Our congratulations to those who celebrate their anniversary of ordination on this feast day and we give thanks for ministries which span decades.

St Matthias was selected as one of two suitable candidates to replace Judas after Jesus ascended (Acts 1:12-26). To use the cricket language of my youth he came into the emerging church leadership team as a “twelfth man.” In cricket this means a reserve player ready to bowl, bat or field as needed. In the church an ordinand needs to be ready to participate in the ministries where the church needs another team player, whether visiting nursing homes or leading youth group or some other ministry.

This fitting in to fill a need reminds me of the ancient tale of seventeen camels and three children. A man who owned seventeen camels left his oldest child half his camels, his middle child a third of his camels and the youngest child a ninth of his camels. The children did not want to start cutting their camels into pieces and destroy their inheritance in order to receive it.  A wise neighbour lent them a camel, so they could work out their inheritance based on eighteen camels. Then the oldest child received nine camels (half of eighteen), the middle child six camels (a third of eighteen), the youngest child two camels (a ninth of eighteen). The remained camel was returned to the neighbour.

Matthias is a bit like the neighbour with the eighteenth camel, ready to step in and help when needed, but also ready to step away when no longer needed. From the pages of the New Testament we know very little about Matthias, even though he followed Jesus from the beginning. Similarly, people who review our church history may learn very little about us. Nevertheless, we are called to provide “the eighteenth camel” to help people live together as fellow children of God and inheritors of kingdom.

Ruth Mathieson

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