Gleanings from the Collects: Second Sunday after Pentecost

Grant, O Lord, that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by your providence, that your Church may joyfully serve you in quiet confidence and godly peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This collect has been transferred to the Second Week after Pentecost in the 2019 Book of Common Prayer. It replaces a collect from the 1979 BCP[1]that in turn replaced a collect of the 1928 and 1662 BCP.[2](Both of these collects are in the footnotes).

While this collect seems virtuous at first blush, it does not come from a biblical worldview. As a result it is more wishful thinking than good theology. Written at the time of the barbarian invasions, it is a foxhole prayer that falls short.

Its first error is that it implies that the ability of the Church to “joyfully serve in quiet confidence and godly peace” is dependent upon this world being “peaceably ordered by your providence” What would be the vehicle for this peace to come to the world? Politics? Science? Education? The true vehicle for peace is the gospel of the Kingdom. Thus rather than praying for peace, so that the Church can do her job, we need to pray for the Church to do her job, so that the world can know peace.

Jesus was quite clear about the contrast between Himself and the world. He said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer,I have overcome the world.”[3]St. Paul would not have ordered the Church to “put on the whole armor of God”[4]if she was going to fulfill her mission in the context of a peaceful world. It would be nice but that is not reality. Reality is that nearly twice the number of Christians were martyred last century than in all the previous centuries combined[5]. Again, the Church’s role is to make this a peaceful world by working and praying for the Kingdom to come in its fullness.

This leads to the second error of this collect. Jesus did not promise His disciples a life of “quiet confidence and godly peace.” He did not give such false assurances. Jesus, as a Southern expression goes, put the skunk on the table. He said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”[6]Jesus promises a cross not a rose garden.

A more biblically accurate collect from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer says, “Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.Amen.”[7]

St. James corrects us. “And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.”[8]While it would be wonderful for the Church to go about her business in a peaceful world, such a naïve hope is focused more for our comfort than on the glory of God. The Church would do well to return to the former collects for this Sunday that are far more biblically sound.

[1]O God, whose never-failing providence ordereth all things both in heaven and earth: We humbly beseech thee to put away from us all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 1979 BCP p.177

[2]O GOD, the strength of all those who put their trust in thee; Mercifully accept our prayers; and because, through the weakness of our mortal nature, we can do no good thing without thee, grant us the help of thy grace, that in keeping thy commandments we may please thee, both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 1928 BCP p.188,189

[3]John 16:33 NKJV

[4]Ephesians 6:11-18


[6]John 15:18-20

[7]1979 BCP p.56

[8]James 4:3 NLT

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