Gleanings from the Collects: Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This collect can be traced to a 7thcentury Missal.[1]It was revised by Archbishop Cranmer for the first English Book of Common Prayer. It was appointed as the collect for Proper 21 in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and the 8thSunday after Pentecost in the 2019 BCP.

It begins with an astonishing statement. When we think of the almighty power of God our minds go to the creation of all things, the LORD spinning galaxies from His fingertips. We wonder at His power to sustain everything that has life, from microscopic creatures, to all of human kind, to angelic beings. We marvel at His power to bring all things to their appointed ends. When we think of His almighty power we tend to quake. And yet this collect corrects our thinking. It tells us that the almighty power of God is chiefly declared, “in showing mercy and pity.” He uses His power not like the great and terrible Oz, but as a loving heavenly Father to help and to heal. John 3:16 tells us that this collect is exactly right. Thus when we think of a power that matches His love, it causes us to seek refuge in Him. Where else would we find both mercy and pity?

The petition is to receive grace to “…become partakers of your heavenly treasure.” We need this grace because heavenly treasures are not attained by our good works. St. Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”[2]

However the collect wisely points out that we are not passive recipients of God’s grace. It gives us the image of “running to obtain your promises.” This imagery reflects the words of Hebrews“…let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”[3]

The Christian life is not a sprint, rather it is a marathon. It is a race, that apart from the grace of God, we would be unable to complete. But with the help of God we will not only finish the race but we will also receive “a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”[4]

[1]Gallican Missale Gothicum – “holy missal Batman!”

[2]Ephesians 2:8,9 ESV

[3]Hebrews 12:1 NLT

[4]I Peter 5:4 KJV

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