Gleanings from the Collects: Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Almighty God, give us the increase of faith, hope, and love; and, that we may obtain what you have promised, make us love what you command; 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 found in 7thand 8th[1]century books of liturgy as well as in the Sarum Missal of the 11thcentury. Archbishop Cranmer edited the line “that we may deserve to obtain what you promise” to avoid any hint of works righteousness as repudiated by St. Paul.  “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]

The brevity of this prayer does not in any way imply its insignificance. We address the LORD as Almighty because He is and therefore willing and able to answer this petition. We pray for an increase of faith, hope and love because Scripture tells us that these are abiding virtues, with love being the greatest.[3]

The prayer orients us toward our ultimate goal, which is “to obtain what you have promised.” Chief among those promises is the hope of everlasting life.[4]

The danger of an emphasis upon grace is that it can drift into antinomianism; the belief that the moral law is of no value. In every day terms it means that I can consider myself a Christian but continue to live as I see fit in my sin. St. Paul confronted this error in Romans 6. Bonheoffer referred to this thinking as “cheap grace” because it mistakenly believes that one can have Jesus as Savior without obeying Him as Lord. And yet Jesus said, “If you love Me you will keep My commandments.”[5]

The collect connects obtaining God’s promises with keeping God’s commandments. But it does so by showing obedience as a fruit of God’s grace and not a cause. It is His grace that causes us to love what He commands and then His commandments become joyful means to an abundant life and not an onerous burden of self-righteousness. 

[1]Leonine and Gelasian sacramentary

[2]Ephesians 2:8,9

[3]I Corinthians 13

[4]Matthew 7:21-23

[5]John 14:15

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