February Journal, Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

birdToday’s Epistle is one of the most beautiful in all of St. Paul’s letters to the churches. As in many others, he gives us lists, describing how we are to behave, what virtues we are to put on, as though they were garments of grace. We are to let the peace of God rule in our hearts, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord. As the body of Christ, we bond our perfection with charity, that is, with love. We are to let the words of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom:

The Epistle for the 5th Sunday after Epiphany, Colossians iii.2+
“PUT on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and be-loved, a heart of compassion, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” 1928 Book of Common Prayer, 116

MusicThere is much here about hearts and love and peace and unity and music and thanksgiving. And yet we are called the elect, “holy and loved,” set apart from the world around us. It is a word that says others will not be with us; others will not have the vision of God. 

In today’s divisions and angry accusations and distrust, this letter to the Colossians is an oasis. Who wouldn’t want to sing with grace to the Lord? And yet we must also be compassionate, kind, humble, meek, long-suffering. We must forgive quarrels. We must do these things to be a part of the elect, to know this peace that passes all understanding.

We live in a materialistic world, a world that countenances only the physical, the material aspect of humanity. We are told we are only a conglomeration of atoms with no soul, no interior life. And yet how do we explain consciousness itself – that we can be outside ourselves, looking at ourselves? This alone says we are meant for another world, a world we intuitively know, a world we call our true home.

Families are divided into these camps: the materialists and the believers. The materialist makes up his own rules for there is no outside authority. The believer believes this authority rests in God our creator and we must follow his rules. The Church helps interpret these commandments so that we can practice them each day as we live our lives on this earth. The Church is our second authority.

flag.nationOur communities and our nation are divided into these believers and non-believers, nihilists, materialists.

Recognizing these very real divisions helps us understand the Gospel for today, a troubling one for many. Our Lord tells the parable of the tares (weeds) that have been sown amidst the wheat of good seed by an enemy. At the time of the harvest the tares will be gathered and burned; the wheat will be gathered separately and saved. I look at family and friends that are materialists and realize they may not be gathered and saved.

And so we pray for them. We pray for our families, our nation, our world. We pray that all may be gathered at the harvest and saved. We pray that all may say yes to God, that all may know the peace and joy and wisdom of faith in Jesus Christ. We pray that all may open their hearts to the reasons we have today to believe, the scientific reasons, the philosophical reasons, the simple reasons of recognition that it all makes perfect sense. For there are plenty of reasons to believe, plenty of rational arguments that say we are made for another place, a place we will call home.

GIVING THANKSThis is the good news – that if we desire God, we will find him.

My husband and I are celebrating our fortieth wedding anniversary. The sacrament of marriage is a religious rite in which a couple makes vows to love one another in sickness and in health, till death parts them. This is a sacrament ordained by God. And yet today it is rejected by materialists who say we are only fleshly creatures and it matters not whether we make public vows. Materialists live together without concern for marriage, denying the commandment to marry before living as husband and wife. For this union is of vital concern to God.

IMG_0044Why is marriage so important to God? Why the ceremony and why the vows? Because marriage will make us happy. Because marriage will provide children and ensure the continuing life of mankind on earth. Because marriage will teach us how to be sacrificial and suffering, how to truly love one another. Because marriage will teach us how to love within the family community so that we can love within the broader community of citizens in towns and states and nations. It all starts with marriage and hopefully family. Marriage is a Christian sacrament, betrayed by the materialism of today. Tares have been sewn amidst the good seed.

And so we turn to St. Paul and his advice to the Colossians. We put on the heart of God, singing and praising, and loving as we are meant to love.

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