Epistle for 35th Sunday 2019
In today’s Epistle, the holy Apostle Paul write the following to the Colossian Christians…
“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
I am always struck by the beauty and the precision with which the Apostle Paul expresses himself. In these five sentences, there is so much wisdom, so much Christian instruction, and so much love!
It is worthwhile to pull these sentences apart and to really absorb what is being said to us.
First of all, we are addressed as God’s chosen ones. Think about that for a moment… Who was Apostle Paul addressing in this letter? The chosen people of God are often thought to be the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob… the Israelites. But in this Epistle, Apostle Paul is addressing both Jewish and Gentile Christians in the city of Colosse. God’s chosen ones are those whom He has adopted to sonship through Jesus Christ. What a humbling and awesome and ennobling distinction it is to be chosen by God and to bear the name of Christian.
We are told to put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. What a contrast this is to the spirit of this world - which so often hardens our heart, where kindness in our dealings with each other goes missing, where humility and meekness are thought to be signs of weakness, and where the pace of life breeds tremendous impatience!
We are urged to bear with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, to forgive one another as the Lord has forgiven us. Again, how foreign this is to the spirit of this modern world. So much of what we see in the public square can be characterized as an almost predatory vigilance to catch someone else doing something wrong. And then, when some misstep is discovered, to pounce on that and expose and exaggerate the wrongdoings of another in an effort to deflect our own mistakes and transgressions. Where is the spirit of patience and forgiveness in all this? And where is the awareness of the connection that we all share? For such exploitation of another can only occur when we see the other as completely separate and unrelated to ourselves. Each man is an island.
But the Apostle Paul tells us: Above all these things to put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. There are two things to note here…
First of all, just as Christ taught when asked which was the greatest commandment - He replied that we are to love the Lord God with all of our heart, our mind, our soul, and our strength; and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Christ said that upon such love hangs all the law and the prophets. Apostle Paul echoes this when he tells us that above all these things we are to put on love.
Second, the consequence of such love binds us together in perfect harmony. The world speaks highly of the ideals of unity, of peace, and of harmony. Many men and women expend great energy in pursuing these goals… and there is certainly some good in that. But the reality is that unity, peace, and harmony can only occur as the consequences of love. And love, if it is genuine and selfless, is unglamorous, humiliating, and extremely difficult work because it requires the death of one’s ego in favor of loving God with all your heart, and mind, and soul, and strength; and loving your neighbor as yourself.
It is the great paradox of the Christian gospel… he who would lose his life for Christ’s sake and Gospels, will find true life and true joy.
Continuing with our Epistle… the Apostle writes: And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. Our Lord said: ‘Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.’
The peace of Christ is an inner calm and assurance which remains steady even amid the greatest storms. Christ’s peace is not dependent upon the circumstances of our life… these are always changing and take us up and down on the rollercoaster of life. But that peace of Christ is the steady joy and stillness that can weather any storm.
Next Apostle Paul reminds us to be thankful. This is so important! A grateful heart is one of the surest ways to protect oneself from sin and trouble. If we open our eyes to the reality of the generosity and kindness of God, we would shed tears of gratitude each day.
Finally, we are told to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thanksgiving in our hearts to God.
What a joyful description of how we should be as a Church and as a body of Christian believers. May the word of Christ indeed dwell in our hearts and minds. May we seek the true wisdom of God and may the joy that such wisdom and love bring cause us to praise the Lord with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thanksgiving in our hearts to God.