Gleanings from the Collects: Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in continual godliness, that through your protection it may be free from all adversities, and devoutly serve you in good works, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

This collect, although absent from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, can be found in the 1662 BCP for the Twenty-Second Sunday after Trinity. It is also in the 1928 BCP. It is a petition for the Lord to empower and protect His Church.

Referring to the Church as God’s “household” is an important reminder that we are the family of God. St. Paul wrote, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”[1]

Therefore we must be diligent to not only treat one another as family but also to resist the temptation to conform the Church to corporate America or follow the latest fad of so called experts. We already have a solid Cornerstone and foundation, as well as those who have gone before us, and that is whom we build upon.

The collect highlights two important elements of being a follower of Christ. One is an inward focus and the other is outward focus and both are necessary to have a balanced spiritual life.

The first is to walk in “continual godliness.” Scripture says, “Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.”[2]

Admittedly the call to be holy is daunting. But it is important to remember, as this collect points out, that holiness is first and foremost God’s work in us and that is why we pray for Him to keep us in continual godliness and to protect us from all adversities.

The other focus of our lives is to “devoutly serve you in good works.” Christianity is not a self-improvement course; rather it is a life of service. That is certainly what Jesus modeled for us. If a person cannot answer the question, “whose feet do you wash?” then they need to seek spiritual direction to get back on the right path.

Lastly the collect gives us the goal of our good works. It says “to the glory of your Name.” Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”[3] While our motives and service will never be pure or perfect, we can nevertheless make it our life’s goal to glorify the One who alone is worthy to receive it.

[1] Ephesians 2:19-22 ESV

[2] Hebrews 12:14 NLT

[3] Matthew 5:16

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