6 Feb 2022
The Gospel. St. Matthew xiii. 24.
The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
Today’s gospel is one of Jesus’ many parables about the Kingdom of Heaven and how the Church here on earth figures into building it. We in the Anglican Church Worldwide are concerned about this because of the difficulty involved in building up our Church when Christianity as a whole is undergoing such terrible pressures both inside and outside.
In the parable, the Kingdom of God is compared to a man who sowed wheat and whose enemy came and planted weeds, tares, among it. When the seeds grew, the workers noticed the weeds and suggested that they weed the field. But the householder says this can’t be done without killing some of the wheat too—by disturbing the roots. The wheat and the weeds have to grow together until the harvest. Then, they will be separated, and the weeds will be burned and the wheat will be harvested. The good and bad must live together in the world until the end because if you try too hard to pull out the bad, you will end up destroying good souls.
The history of Christianity as a whole has many examples of people who tried to do just what the husbandman said they shouldn’t—eliminate the bad from the Church. “We know who you are!” Disfellowshipping, ostracizing, and worse have been used to ‘purify’ the Church. Somehow, there still remained forces both within and outside of the Church that brought about corruption, hypocrisy, and abuse to this very day. The parable gives the answer: let us all grow up together in the Church and not try to second guess our Lord as to who is wheat and who are the tares. If we recognize in ourselves that we have ‘missed the mark’ and sinned against the Lord, then the Church has given us the means to cleanse from our sins. We have confession as a part of our regular worship. For example, in Morning Prayer, we say:
Almighty and most merciful Father; We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou those who are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind In Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.
Of course, the Lord has given us Holy Communion to restore us to the life He wants for us and to strengthen us in our daily challenges.
We in the Anglican Church Worldwide are faced with the challenges of the modern world, which laughs at our most fervent beliefs and mocks us at every turn. In addition, other Christian bodies feel it is their right to criticize and defame us as not being perfect in belief and practice as they are. We must be patient and enduring in such circumstances. We must pray for those who wish to make themselves our enemies. We know we have our faults and must do what we can to correct them, but it is not our way to point to the mote in the other’s eye. We can but point to Holy Scripture and say that there is our source of life and hope.
We have no special holiness that makes it possible for the Anglican Church Worldwide to select faultlessly its members, but we cherish all our brothers and sisters, the wheat of our particular and sincere harvest. We have the confidence the Lord has provided us in Scripture, in our prayers, and especially in Holy Communion. For these gifts we are eternally thankful as we say:
Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee, for that thou dost vouchsafe to feed us who have duly received these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ; and dost assure us thereby of thy favour and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, which is the blessed company of all faithful people; and are also heirs through hope of thy everlasting kingdom, by the merits of his most precious death and passion. And we humbly beseech thee, O heavenly Father, so to assist us with thy grace, that we may continue in that holy fellowship, and do all such good works as thou hast prepared for us to walk in; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.
We in the Anglican Church Worldwide have a great mission in the present time, a time in which religion is more and more something private, exclusive, self-righteous, and superficial. We have a mission and a duty to testify to God’s love. That is the true kingdom reaching out to include and embrace us all.
We do not cut ourselves off from our neighbours. It is hard to tell weeds from wheat and there is always hope that even what appeared to be weeds may turn out useful to the Lord in the end. Finally, we live now by faith and hope in the Lord’s promises. We are united not by a knowledge of what is wheat and what weed, but by the words of his promise and the sacraments of his grace.
Source: The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany by W.J. Hanke
Bishop Edwin Tompkins