Gleanings from the Collects: Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Grant us, O Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who can do no good thing apart from you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The gist of this collect can be found in the Leonine Sacramentary[1]. It appeared as the collect for Proper 14 in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and has been transferred to the 6thSunday after Pentecost in the 2019 BCP.

This brief collect encapsulates a central doctrine of the Christian faith. It highlights the role of grace in the life of the believer. 

It crushes our human pride to admit, as the collect says, that we “can do no good thing apart from you,” But that is a reality of life as taught by Holy Scripture. Without God we are “dead in our transgressions and sins.”[2]Even with God we are utterly dependent. Jesus said, “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.”[3]Thus we entreat God to grant us the spirit to think and do what is right, as well as the power to fulfill it.

Admitting our utter dependence upon the LORD, to even think what is right, does not absolve us of personal responsibility. The sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man are not mutually exclusive ideas. They are intertwined truths that give us the hope that we will be able to complete the race because He is with us all the way. 

After a beautifully poetic call to put on Christ’s humility[4]St. Paul writes, “work out your salvation in fear and trembling.”[5]That certainly is a call for human responsibility, but if that it was all that he said then we would be left in fear and trembling. St. Paul continues, “for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”[6]God gives us the will and the power to do what is right and that is how we go about working out our salvation. We are at the same time humbled by our dependence upon Him and confident that “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”[7]

One of the most obvious ways that the LORD answers our prayers for grace is through Word and Sacrament. It is through the proclamation of God’s Word that we are led to salvation.[8]It is through baptism that we are cleansed from sin.[9]It is through Holy Communion that we are united with Christ.[10]In short, God’s grace is primarily mediated through the Church and that is why we need one another. The Holy Spirit unites us to one another and to Christ in such a way that we are Christ’s Body. Thus when Saul was arresting Christians Jesus asked Him, “Why are you persecuting Me?”[11]Because we are His Body it is most appropriate for us to pray to “think and do always those thing that are right” and to be able “to live according to your will.” 

[1]7thcentury liturgical book of prayers to be prayed by the priest

[2]Ephesians 2:1 NIV

[3]John 15:4 NASB

[4]Philippians 2:1-11

[5]Philippians 2:12 NASB

[6]Philippians 2:13

[7]Philippians 1:6 NASB

[8]Romans 10:8-10

[9]Acts 22:16

[10]John 6:56

[11]Acts 9:4

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