Gleanings from the Collects: The 2nd Sunday in Lent

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities that may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This collect was appointed for the 2ndSunday in Lent in the Gregorian Sacramentary[1]and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. It was transferred to the 3rdSunday in Lent in the 1979 BCP and returned to its original position in the 2019 BCP. 

It is a very appropriate prayer for the penitential season of Lent. True penitents realize and confess that they have come to the end of their own strength, are found wanting, and as a consequence they call out to God for mercy. 

The power of such an approach can be seen in the countless lives that have been restored through AA. Their first three steps to recovery say, “1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable. 2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”[2]

Thus it is not until we realize that we have nowhere else to turn, that we turn in the right direction. The Scripture says that when the Prodigal Son “came to his senses” the returned to his Father[3]Lent is a focused time for us to come to our senses.

Additionally the collect points out that our battles are in two dimensions. We battle outwardly with the flesh but we also battle inwardly with spiritual forces. The collect says that we face “adversities that may happen to the body” as well as “evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul.” 

An important part of spiritual maturity is to keep both battles in their proper perspective. If we only battle on the level of the flesh then we can easily become pawns and even casualties in a spiritual battle of which we are unaware. As someone said, “If you don’t recognize the spiritual battle then everything looks like a conspiracy.” Ignorance of the big picture results in ineffective tactics that have dire consequences. St. Paul warned, “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”[4]

On the other hand if we only consider the spiritual battles then we tend to make excuses for sins of the flesh. Like Flip Wilson, we shift responsibility and say, “the Devil made me do it.”[5]Thus the mature Christian denies (St. Paul says “crucify”) the flesh[6]AND suits up in the whole armor of God to battle against principalities and powers.[7]

All throughout Holy Scripture we are reminded that when we call on the LORD He then comes to our aid because He is faithful to a thousand generations.[8]And so as we pray this collect the following Scripture should resound in our hearts and be a cause for thanksgiving. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”[9]In this way we end the prayer, not in desperation, but in quiet confidence and peace. 

[1]A 10thcentury book of prayers and rites used by the Celebrant

[2]AA Big Book 4thEdition, p59

[3]Luke 15:17 NASB

[4]2 Corinthians 11:3 NASB

[5]Apologies. You have to be at least 150 years old to catch that reference.

[6]Galatians 5:24

[7]Ephesians 6:11-13

[8]Deuteronomy 7:9

[9]Psalm 46:1

Gleanings from the Collects: 1st Sunday in Lent

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations, and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

This collect first appeared in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. It is adapted from the book Ancient Collects[1]that in turn drew from a collect in the Gregorian Sacramentary[2]of the 8thcentury. 

This prayer is an improvement over the collect for the First Sunday in Lent in the Sarum Rite[3]that reads, “God you cleanse your church with the annual observance of Lent: grant your family that what they strive to obtain from you by fasting they may follow up with good works.” This collect has been correctly described as having pelagian[4]overtones. The words “what they strive to obtain from you by fasting” seems to paint a quid pro quo relationship with God that betrays works righteousness.

The 1979 collect however is not an improvement over the 1662 collect. It reads, “O LORD who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights; Give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit, we may every obey thy godly motions in righteousness and true holiness, to thy honor and glory, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

The 1662 collect hits the mark for a number of reasons. First it is addressed directly to our Lord Jesus Christ who overcame temptation and therefore is the very One to give us grace to do the same. Second, while avoiding pelagian overtones, it is not as passive as the current collect. It has us correctly calls upon His grace but then goes on to declare our role in overcoming temptations. Our abstinence is to subdue our flesh to the Spirit and we are to obey the leadership of the same Spirit (“obey thy godly motions”) to pursue righteousness and holiness.

That being said, the current collect has its merits. It perfectly captures the focus of the day’s Gospel that is on the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. Thus as we enter the 40 days of Lent with Christ it reminds us that we do not do so with bravado or with trust in our own power. 

The collect acknowledges our true condition that we are “assaulted by many temptations” and because of our weakness we stand in need. The collect wisely has us to call upon the Lord to find Him “mighty to save.” 

This balanced approach of admitting our weakness but finding the Lord “mighty to save” will lead to a fruitful Lenten season. It will help to prepare us for the glories of His resurrection, “so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”[5]

[1]William Bright, 1824-1901, Anglican Priest and Historian.

[2]A Sacramentary is a book that contains the prayers used by the Celebrant.

[3]Sarum Rite was the Rite of Salisbury Cathedral from the 11thcentury

[4]Pelagius was a British monk of the 4thcentury who put such an emphasis on free will and asceticism that St. Augustine condemned him for denying the necessity of God’s grace for salvation.

[5]Romans 6:4 NASB

Lessons from a Fallen Leader

“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Ephesians 5:11 NLT

“Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.” James 3:1 NLT

Reading the report on Ravi Zacharias produced a plethora of emotions. Shock, anger, sadness, and even feelings of betrayal that such an internationally famous leader would and could deceive us. At first I did not want to read the news articles because I thought that they would merely be gossip. Additionally it did not seem right to pile on a man who was dead and who therefore could not defend himself. But when I saw respected writers weigh in on this topic I felt a need to learn the facts…and the facts were very, very ugly. You can learn the story at

The point of this reflection is not to chronicle Ravi’s sins but to offer lessons that can be learned from this tragic story. However it seems necessary first to make some clarifications. As the Scriptures quoted above point out, it is not only allowed but the duty of the Church to expose leaders who engage in deeds of darkness. If Paul could publically call out Peter for his hypocrisy[1]then bringing Ravi’s grievous sins into the light is more than appropriate. Additionally it strengthens the Church when sin is exposed because it acts as a cautionary tale. St. Paul wrote, “Publicly rebuke those who sin, so that the rest will also be afraid.”[2]

It also needs to be pointed out that the weight and consequences of Ravi’s sins are so egregious that it would be a sin to hide them. Consider his victims. Some may wrongfully believe that all sin is equal in God’s eyes and therefore all sins should be covered by Jesus’ statement “Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.”[3]But Scripture refutes such a notion. First, not all sins are equal. St. John wrote, “All wicked actions are sin, but not every sin leads to death.”[4]If you think that swearing and murder are equal sins then you still have some work to do on your ethical standards. Second, if the sins of others should universally be covered, because each of us is a sinner, then St. Paul’s call to publicly rebuke sin would be in direct contradiction of Jesus’ teaching. A more thoughtful application of Jesus’ words is called upon.

So after learning the ugly truth about Ravi what can the Church learn? How can this darkness help us to walk in the light?

  1. Walk in the fear of God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”[5]God’s holiness and God’s mercy are equal attributes and we become dangerously imbalanced if we do not hold both before us. If we only speak of God’s mercy then He becomes a lenient grandfather who winks at our sin. If we only hold to God’s holiness that we become “sinners in the hands of an angry God.”[6]But when we have both views of God before us we see Him as “Judge of all men”[7]whose “property is always to have mercy.”[8]Because He is holy we flee from sin and because He is merciful we come home like the prodigal when we do sin. The fear of the Lord has us turn the other way when temptation approaches us and the mercy of God has us run into His arms.
  2. Walk in the love of God. “If you love me you will keep my commandments.”[9]
    We love Him because He first loved us[10]and it is because we love Him that we keep our promises to Him. When I was a child it was the love of my parents, even more that the fear of them that motivated me to obey. The greatest dread was not punishment but rather the dread of disappointing them. Thus obedience and a healthy desire to please are fruits of love.
  3. Walk in humility. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.”[11]The Message says it best. “First pride, then the crash— the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.” One sign of Ravi’s pride was that he was not submitted to a local church. It is pride to think that we do not need one another or that we have outgrown the local church. CS Lewis said, “ If there is anything in the teaching of the New Testament which is in the nature of a command, it is that you are obliged to take the Sacrament, and you can’t do it without going to Church…It gets you out of your solitary conceit.”[12]The second sign of Ravi’s pride was that he had little to no accountability. According to the report, he surrounded himself with underlings and “yes” men who were awed by his intellect and fame and trembled before his anger. 
  4. Walk in truth. “Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.”[13]One of the ways that God’s truth keeps us from sin is that it gives us true perspectives about life. It tells us who God is and who we are and so we order our lives accordingly. Ravi’s view of himself had become so distorted that he justified being a sexual predator because of his supposed faithfulness to the Gospel. He clearly was not walking in the truth about either himself or of God. A key truth about ourselves that the Scriptures teach is our utter dependence upon Him. He is the Potter and we are the clay.[14]He is the Shepherd and we are the sheep.[15]He is Eternal and we are like flowers that fade away.[16]He is the Creator and He is mindful that we are but dust.[17]This biblical perspective acts as an important reality check no matter what measure of fame or success we may achieve. So instead of being deceived like Ravi, that we have earned some special privilege, we remember Jesus words of truth, “In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.’”[18]

When Christian leaders fall it can be a temptation to become cynical and withdraw. While this is an understandable reaction it is also an immature one. A mature biblical understanding has us prepared for the inevitable without becoming cynical. It should be of no surprise to us when leaders fall because we live in a fallen world. And that is why our ultimate faith must be in the Good Shepherd and not in His under shepherds whose feet are clay. It is also important to be reminded from Holy Scripture that we can forgive the unforgivable of our fallen leaders who repent because the Lord has forgiven the unforgivable in each of us when we too have repented. 

[1]Galatians 2:11-21

[2]I Timothy 5:20

[3]John 8:7

[4]I John 5:17 NLT

[5]Proverbs 9:10

[6]Puritan Sermon, Jonathan Edwards, 1741

[7]1928 Book of Common Prayer p75

[8]1928 Book of Common Prayer p82

[9]John 14:15

[10]I John 4:19

[11]Proverbs 16:18 NASB

[12]God in the Dock

[13]Psalm 86:11 ESV

[14]Isaiah 64:8

[15]Psalm 23

[16]I Peter 1:24

[17]Psalm 103:14

[18]Luke 17:10

Gleanings from the Collects: Last Sunday after the Epiphany

O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This collect first appeared in the 1928 English BCP and was repeated in the 1979 BCP of the American Church. As the number of Sundays in Epiphany varies, due to the movable dates of Easter, this collect has been appointed for whenever the last Sunday after the Epiphany occurs. Its focus is the Transfiguration of our Lord because that is the Gospel lesson appointed for that day each year. Hence the last Sunday before Lent is commonly referred to as “Transfiguration Sunday.” The actual feast day of the Transfiguration is August 6. 

The collect gives us the contextof Jesus’ Transfiguration. It was “before the passion of your only-begotten Son.” While this event revealed Jesus’ glory, that is His divinity, it was not yet time for His glorification. He had “set his face like a flint”[1]to go to Jerusalem to finish the work that His Father had given Him to do. We can presume that speaking with Moses and Elijah, and having the Father speak aloud as at His baptism, strengthened Jesus for the terrible task that was ahead. And while the disciples had not put all the pieces together at that point, they could look back later and see what the Father was preparing all of them to face.

 While the Transfiguration was a once and for all time event, we may still be a part of it. How? The collect tell us how. By “beholding by faith the light of his countenance.” This lovely expression is poignant. It reminds us that we walk by faith and not by sight[2]and Jesus says that those who believe but have never seen are especially blessed.[3]

The collect also reminds us of the focus of our faith. It is not the Bible or the Church or the Creeds, as wonderful and vital as is each of those. The focus of our faith is the Person of Jesus, to behold “the light of his countenance.” This is a refreshing reminder particularly when we get bogged down in church politics or theological debates or the failures of our leaders and we have lost our focus. This collect reminds us, as a popular expression puts it, “It’s all about Him.” One of the most well respected theologians of our generation said that the most profound thing that he had ever learned in all of theology was that “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.” We need to return to that truth daily if not hourly. 

The collect goes on to tell us of the outcomeof our faith. And that is to “be strengthened to bear our cross” and to “be changed into his likeness.” 

This is a very appropriate reminder as next Wednesday we enter the season of Lent. The fasts, the additional disciplines and worship, the almsgiving, and whatever else the Lord calls each of us to do, can all be a form of a cross that we bear. And we bear the cross in this manner not to become martyrs or to gain spiritual brownie points or to be respected by others. We bear our cross to “be changed into his likeness.” We bear the cross so that we may be able to say with St. Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not ‘mine,’ but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”[4]

[1]Isaiah 50:7; Luke 9:51

[2]2 Corinthians 5:7

[3]John 20:29

[4]Galatians 2:20, The Message

Gleanings from the Collects: World Mission Sunday

Almighty God, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, you revealed the way of eternal life to every race and nation: Pour out this gift anew, that by the preaching of the Gospel your salvation may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This collect for mission first appeared in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and is repeated almost verbatim at Pentecost. It drew heavily from a prayer in the Gelisian Sacramentary.[1]

The collect calls to mind the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 when people who were present from many nations heard the Good News of salvation in their own tongue. 

Two very important truths are contained in this collect. The first is the universality of the Gospel. Pentecost was evidence that salvation was not just for the Jewish people but for every “family, language, people and nation.”[2]

The Apostles understood this truth and so they began the ministry of taking to Gospel to the nations as Jesus commended. They began in Jerusalem and then they and their followers since have gone to the ends of the earth.[3]

Today we are to follow in their footsteps and in the power of the Holy Spirit boldly proclaim, “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.”[4]Such a message will be a stumbling block to many but it will also be salvation to those who hear and receive it. It would be unfaithfulness on our part to dilute this message.

The second truth of this collect is that it informs us how salvation reaches to the ends of the earth. It is the work of the Holy Spirit “by the preaching of the Gospel.” While the modern church puts much emphasis on programs, bands and smoke machines, this collect calls us back to what the Scripture calls, “the foolishness of preaching.”[5]It is the central way that God speaks to saint and sinner alike and He promises that His Word does not return void but accomplishes His purposes.[6]Thus preaching should be held in high regard in the Church and so we pray that “with meek heart and due reverence (we) may hear and receive thy holy Word, truly serving thee in holiness and righteousness all the days of (our) lives.”[7]

Of course the proclamation of the Gospel is not limited to preachers. All Christians are to proclaim the salvation of God in Christ in both word and deed. And because our citizenship is in heaven[8]in one sense we are all full time missionaries while we walk in this world. Are we doing the work that He has given us to do?

[1]A book of prayers, rites and blessings used by the Celebrant dating to around 750AD

[2]Canticle 18 pg 94 1979 BCP; Revelation 7:9

[3]Acts 1:8

[4]Acts 4:12 NASB

[5]I Corinthians 1:21

[6]Isaiah 55:11

[7]1928 Book of Common Prayer p.74

[8]Philippians 3:20

Gleanings from the Collects: 4 Epiphany

O God, you know that we are set in the midst of many grave dangers, and because of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: Grant that your strength and protection may support us in all dangers and carry us through every temptation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

This collect is found in the 1662 and 1928 Book of Common Prayer. It was replaced in the 1979 BCP with a rather innocuous prayer and then restored in the 2019 BCP to the fourth Sunday after Epiphany.

The collect is particularly pertinent in our time, in light of the triumphalism that permeates not just American Christianity but is infecting the Church around the world. This triumphalism has many permutations but in essence proclaims that if you have enough faith and/or make the right confession then you will be healthy and prosperous and have “Your Best Life Now.”[1]Meanwhile Holy Scripture teaches that we are not exempt from suffering and that our best life will be in the world to come.

This collect reminds us of that which is ignored by the health and wealth “gospel,” namely that we live in a fallen world. It reminds us “we are set in the midst of many grave dangers” and positive thinking or the right confession cannot change that. And if that were not enough the prayer also remind us of the “frailty of our nature.” So in light of a fallen world and our frail nature we look not within but to God and ask for His grace and seek His “strength and protection.”

A very comforting thought is contained in this collect. God knows that we are in peril and that “because of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright.” The Psalmist says it so perfectly, “He is mindful that we are but dust.”[2]This means that God is not surprised when in our human nature we fall and He does not love us any less. Brennan Manning says it this way. “He loves you as you are, and not as you should be, because no one is as they should be.”[3]We fall because we are frail, we fall because we are dust. This is not an excuse rather it is an explanation. 

But God also loves us too much to leave us where we are and so we can appeal to His strength and protection to “carry us through every temptation.”  God answers this prayer by hiding us[4]in Christ, “who was tempted in every way that we are, yet without sin.”[5]He is our shield and our buckler[6]against the fiery darts of the enemy. 

[1]Joel Osteen, Faith Works, 2004.

[2]Psalm 103:14

[3]All is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir

[4]Colossians 3:3

[5]Hebrews 4:15

[6]Psalm 91:4

Gleanings from the Collects: 3 Epiphany

Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This collect first appeared in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. It draws from the collect for the Feast of St. Andrew which begins, “Almighty God, who didst give grace to thine apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of they Son Jesus Christ…”

Several gleanings present themselves from this brief collect. First is that we need grace to answer our Lord’s call. This is not a work to be done in our own strength. It is not a matter of reading the most recommended book, or coming up with the newest strategy or attending the latest seminar. Evangelism, and by extension the growth of the Church, is begun continued and ended in grace. When we stray from that truth our efforts at evangelism look more like selling used cars than sharing the love of God.

Second this collect makes clear the nature of our calling. It is “to proclaim to all people the Good news of his salvation.” And since this collect is prayed by the whole Church, it means that this calling is to the whole Church. Evangelism is not just the work of ordained clergy or those with a special gift. We are all to be witnesses to “his marvelous works.” Remember that the first witness and proclaimer of Jesus’ resurrection was not an Apostle or an Evangelist. It was blessed Mary, a humble follower of Christ. And like Mary we do not have to become great apologists or skilled debaters. We simply need to bear witness of what we have experienced as forgiven sinners. 

Third we must note that the call to proclaim the Good News of his salvation is “to all people.” In this age of compromise and relativism that truth is severely challenged. Years ago I met a man who went to his denominational headquarters to express his desire to take the Gospel to the Orient. The response to his inquiry was “Why, they already have a religion.” If anything, the belief in the uniqueness of Christ for salvation has waned even more since that time. 

But this collect is based upon the eternal truth that salvation in Christ is meant for all the peoples of the earth. And that truth is rooted in the commission that Jesus gave to His Church. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them inthe name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”[1]That is why the Apostles traveled throughout the known world and preached that “everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved.”[2]

Lastly the collect reminds us of the ultimate goal of evangelism. It is not so that people may find personal fulfillment, although that happens. It is not to grow the Church, although that happens. It is not to make the world a better place, although that happens. The ultimate goal of evangelism is so that “the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works.” In short we evangelize for the glory of God. We share the Good News so that more voices will sing the new song, “Worthy are You to take the book and break its seals; for You were slain and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”[3]

[1]Matthew 28:19,20  ESV

[2]Acts 2”21 NASB

[3]Revelation 5:9,10 NASB

Gleanings from the Collects: 2 Epiphany

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

This collect first appeared in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. It was drawn from a collect in the Prayer Book of the Church of South India. While it is not clear why the collect that had been prayed for over 300 years needed to be replaced, nevertheless it fits the season of Epiphany that focuses on the light of Christ. 

The wording of the collect is masterfully assembled. After speaking of Jesus being “the light of the world,” we are called upon to be “illumined” and “shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory.” 

Several truths contained in this collect are informative. First it declares Jesus to be the light of the world. This accords with John’s Gospel that reads, speaking of Jesus, “There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.”[1] 

This simple statement is bolder than it first appears. To declare Jesus as the light of the world means that Jesus is more than my personal light, or even the light for all Christians. He is the light of the whole world, who “enlightens every man.” Thus apart from Him humanity walks in darkness. The popular notion that all roads lead to God is exposed by this proclamation to be untrue. Only Jesus is the light of the world. There is no other.

Second the collects tell us how we are to go about being enlightened. It is “by your Word and Sacraments.” Some philosophies teach that enlightenment comes by emptying oneself of personal awareness and becoming one with all things. But this collect tells us that rather than becoming emptied, we become enlightened by being filled. We are to be filled with Word and Sacrament. 

Third the word “and” is important here. We are illumined by Word AND Sacraments. It is “both/and” not “either/or.” So if either Word or Sacraments are missing then illumination is incomplete. As has been pointed out, to have Word without Sacrament is like reading the menu but skipping the meal.

Fourth we are told the purpose of seeking illumination. It is neither to gain gnostic insight nor to become superior to others. Rather we are to seek to shine with Christ so that He would be “known, worshipped and obeyed to the ends of the earth.” Our calling is not to glorify ourselves but rather to glorify Him. We are to seek to be illumined so that we may take this light to others. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”[2]

Lastly when the collect speaks of Jesus being “known,” it implies something more than mere intellectual awareness or assent. This is clear by the words that follow; “worshipped and obeyed.” To know Him is to have an intimate and very personal relationship with Him. To know Him is to love Him; it is to be united with Him. That is why we, and people everywhere, would worship and obey Him to the ends of the earth. 

[1]New American Standard Bible  John1:9

[2]KJV Matthew 5:16

Gleanings from the Collects: 1 Epiphany

Eternal Father, at the baptism of Jesus you revealed him to be your Son, and your Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove: Grant that we, who are born again by water and the Spirit, may be faithful as your adopted children; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

In the ancient Church the baptism of our Lord was celebrated on the feast of Epiphany. The Eastern Church continues that tradition today. It is also called the Feast of the Theophany because it was at Jesus’ baptism that the Father revealed Jesus to be His Son, as confirmed by the Holy Spirit.

Over time the Western Church separated these two events and so this collect does not appear until the 1979 BCP on the first Sunday after Epiphany in an effort to return to ancient practices. The collect is said to be an adaptation of two collects from the Roman sacramentary.[1]

This brief collect is dense with truth. First it addresses the Father as “Eternal.” It is this attribute of God that makes Him so trustworthy. We who are limited by time and space are blessed to trust the One who is limitless. And so we sing, “Eternal Father strong to save whose arm hath bound the restless wave…”

In this collect we see not only the Holy Trinity named but also the nature of their relationship. The use of the possessive “your Son” and “your Holy Spirit” point to the loving unity of the Trinity.

Interestingly the collect moves from Jesus’ baptism to our own thereby revealing the efficacy of the sacrament. In the sacrament of baptism we are “born again by water and the Spirit” and we are made “your adopted children.” Thus regeneration and adoption reveal that baptism is vastly more than a symbolic act. But neither is it “once and done.” God calls us not only to begin the race but to finish it[2]and so in this collect we also pray to be “faithful as your adopted children.” 

While the thought of being faithful to the end can be daunting, we can have confidence that the LORD in His love has provided all that we need to finish the race. Beyond the already mentioned wonders of regeneration and adoption, He has sent us His Holy Spirit, continually empowers us through Word and Sacrament, and makes us “very members incorporate in the mystical body of all faithful people” and “heirs through hope of thy everlasting kingdom.”[3]The prize for finishing the race is so beyond compare that nothing should prevent us from staying in the race and crossing the finish line. With His grace that is exactly what we will do.

[1]Liturgical book that contains the words and prayers of the celebrant dating back to the 6thcentury. 

[2]I Corinthians 9:24

[3]Holy Communion p83, 1928 BCP

Gleanings from the Collects: 2 Christmas

O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This beautiful collect first appeared in the American Book of Common Prayer in the 1979 edition. However it is an ancient collect that is taken from the Leonine Sacramentary[1]from among the prayers for Christmas. Along with the Roman Catholic Church today, the Anglican Church in North America has appointed this collect for the 2ndSunday after Christmas.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young recorded a popular song called “Woodstock” that contained the lyrics, “We are stardust. We are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.” It’s a good song but it is not good theology as this collect points out. 

In the garden we were “wonderfully created” but in Christ the dignity of our human nature is “yet more wonderfully restored.” Thus we are not going back to the garden, rather we are going forward to the heavenly Jerusalem[2]. Because of Jesus mankind will go from being keepers of a garden to become a royal priesthood.[3]In the garden mankind knew God as Creator but in Christ we know Him as Father. The epistle appointed for this day proclaims this truth in an astonishing way. “In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself according to the kind intention of His will.”[4]

As unfathomable as it may seem, our adoption through Jesus Christ makes us “heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.”[5]While we cannot even imagine all that God has in store for us, we do know that we have a future that far surpasses anything that a return to the garden could offer. Our destiny is not to go backwards but rather to progress from glory to glory.[6]

Like this collect, Leo the Great captured what Christ has done for us through His incarnation. “The Son of God became the Son of Man that the sons of men might become the sons of God.”

[1]The Leonine Sacramentary is a book of prayers attributed to Leo the Great, Bishop of Rome who died 461. It is the oldest surviving liturgical book. 

[2]Hebrews 12:18-24

[3]I Peter 2:9

[4]Ephesians 1:4,5

[5]Romans 8:17

[6]2 Corinthians 3:18