5th after Epiphany

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Epistle Colossians 3:12-17
Gospel S. Matthew 13:24-30

The Collect. It can often be helpful to see the Collect, Epistle and Gospel for each Sunday as a kind of ‘package’, assembled together by our Reformers who knew their Bibles better than most of us do today.

Then we may see the link tying this group together as being the balance, which Scripture so clearly and regularly displays, between the absolute sovereign control of our God in all things on the one hand, and our personal responsibility on the other. We may not be able fully to understand how these two apparently contradictory features may work in harmony, but then we do not sit on the throne of the universe, as God does. For ourselves, we must avoid the mistake of believing in a divine fatalism, as the Muslims and others, and neglecting our responsibility as human beings, and also the opposite mistake of believing that we are the masters of our own destiny and can justify ourselves before God.

Thus we pray, in the Collect, that God will keep his Church, in a way that only he can, and at the same time we may examine ourselves that we may ‘lean only upon the hope of his heavenly grace’.

The Gospel then brings before us the parable of the wheat and the tares, which sets out the people we are talking about. The good seed which is sown in the field, our Lord declares later in verse 38 are the children of the kingdom, and the sower of this seed is the Son of Man. Clearly, he is teaching us that no-one enters the kingdom of heaven, no-one becomes a Christian apart from the sovereign saving work of the Sower, the Lord Jesus Christ in sowing the good seed of the gospel in the heart. As the Lord said to Nicodemus on that dark night, “Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell where it cometh or whither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit”, John 3:7-8. So, the most important thing for everyone of us in this life is to examine ourselves as to whether this new, heavenly, regenerate life is ticking away within us, and if it is not, to pray earnestly for this new birth from above.

When we come to the Epistle we find clear exhortations to encourage and develop this new, divine life of the Spirit within us, as the gardener will encourage the growth of the tender plants in his garden and greenhouse. As the ‘elect of God’ we are now able to put on new clothes: “bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another and forgiving one another…”, vv12-13.

Then we have further exhortations to ‘let’ or ‘allow’ certain features of our new life in Christ to develop—for we have a clear responsibility here. “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts.” So seek to develop in your life a calm and regular trust in the preserving and guiding mercies of God, that you will put aside all anxiety, wring and stress. Allow God’s peace to be on the throne of your life!

Then again, one of the real helps we have in this direction is the Holy Scripture—the Word of God (here called the Word of Christ). Thus we are called to allow the Bible to dwell in us—to make its home in our hearts, and then we are likely to be filled with joy in even the most demanding and difficult situations, and our hearts will more easily be given to exuberant songs, hymns and psalms in both private and public worship.

Everything we do will then, as it should be done, “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by him”, vv 16-17.