Gleanings from the Collects: Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name, increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Variations of this collect can be found in the Gelasian and Gregorian sacramentaries[1]as well as in the Sarum missal.[2]It is the collect for Proper 17 in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer but has been transferred to the 4thSunday after Pentecost in the 2019 BCP. 

The invocation is bold and direct. It ascribes to God “all power and might.” Then adds, “the author and giver of all good things.” These truths together leave the petitioner with no doubt that God is both able because of His power, and willing because of His goodness, to answer this prayer. This teaches us that we pray in faith, not by summoning up our own wills, but by recognizing who God is and trusting in Him to be true to Himself.

One way to view this collect is that it is one petition, followed by three sub petitions, which serve to fulfill the first. In other words we pray for the Lord to “Graft in our hearts the love of your Name” by increasing true religion, nourishing us in goodness and bringing forth the fruit of good works. Such a layered petition deserves further investigation.

First it is noted that we invoke God to graft His love into our hearts. This is so because our love for God is not something that we manufacture. Rather it is a consequence or response to His initiating love. St. John writes, “We love because He first loved us.”[3]When we add that we have done absolutely nothing to deserve this love, then His grace becomes all the more amazing. 

One way that the Lord will graft love for His Name in our hearts is by increasing “in us true religion.” It is likely that Archbishop Cramner added the word “true” before “religion” because of the contemporary controversies of the Reformation. It is certain that false religion promotes fear and condemnation rather than the love of God, therefore the word “true” an important addition. 

While true religion begins at right belief it does not end there. St. James reminds us, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that and shudder.”[4]Beyond right belief we must be transformed from within (“nourish us with all goodness”) and zealous for good works[5](“bring forth in us the fruit of good works”). 

These last two petitions are all the more important in our present age. People today declare that they have true religion while brashly demanding that God accept them as they are in their sinfulness, while others say that they have true religion but selfishly hold it like an insurance policy with no concern for the needs of others. True religion calls us to works within and without, to holiness and service. Both of these qualities were perfectly modeled by Jesus. He who was without sin ate with sinners to liberate them from their sin. 

The overall language of the collect is from the world of agriculture. The images of grafting, nourishing and bringing forth fruit gives us the perspective of the farmer. The farmer is utterly dependent upon the Lord for everything; from providing the seed, to sending the rain to bringing forth the harvest. Such dependence is done in quiet confidence because, as professed at the beginning of the collect, He is “Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things.” 

“If our love were but more faithful, we should take him at his word; our life would be thanksgiving for the goodness of the Lord.”[6]

[1]8thand 10thCentury books of liturgy

[2]11thCentury Rite of Salisbury Cathedral

[3]I John 4:17 ESV

[4]James 2:19 NIV

[5]Titus 2:14 KJV

[6]There is a wideness in God’s Mercy – 1982 Hymnal #470

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