Gleanings from the Collects: Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost

Set us free, loving Father, from the bondage of our sins, and in your goodness and mercy give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

This collect was introduced in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. It was appointed for the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany. Given the proximity to the season of Lent its placement was most appropriate.

The gem of this collect is in showing the Father’s motivation that flows from His attributes. Because He is love[1], He loves us and wants us free “from the bondage of our sins.” Because He is good[2] and merciful[3], He promises us “abundant life.”[4]

If this is true (and it must be because God says it is) then why do we continue to battle with sin and why does life so often seem to be a struggle? There are both theological and practical responses to these questions that provide at least partial answers.

The theological answer to why we continue to battle with sin is because sanctification or holiness is a life long process. It begins in our baptism when we are washed of our sins and given the Holy Spirit. But this is just the beginning of the journey and not the end. It takes a lifetime to be conformed to the image of Christ but we have His promise that “He who began a good work in you will perfect it unto the day of Christ Jesus.”[5]

The theological answer to why life does not seem to be so abundant is two-fold. First life seems like a struggle because it is. Jesus told us “In this world you will have trouble.”[6] Our battle is against the world, the flesh and the devil and while we may want life to be beach chairs and drinks with little umbrellas, the Scriptures call us to put on the full armor of God and fight the good fight.[7] Secondly the abundant life that Jesus promised will not be fully realized until His kingdom comes in its fullness. While we experience his goodness and mercy in this life, true abundance will be found when we see Him face to face.

The practical reason that we continue to battle with sin is because it is easier to do what comes naturally, and sin is what comes naturally. It is easier to hate because love requires sacrifice. It is easier to trust in riches that we can see than in a Heavenly Father that we cannot. It is easier to pull others down rather than build others up. It is easier to walk on by than to wash another’s feet.

But Jesus has come to not only free us from the bondage of sin but to reveal the Father to us. The more we truly grasp how loving, merciful and good our heavenly Father is, the more we find ourselves desiring to do what is right rather than what is easy.

A practical reason that we do not experience an abundant life is because of our perspectives. Do we expect life to be fair? Do we have a sense of entitlement? Do we demand that things go our way? If so then we will never know an abundant life. But if we live a life of gratitude, if we live in service to God and neighbor, if we love because we are loved, then we will begin to taste the abundant life that is only an appetizer for the banquet to come.

[1] I John 4:16

[2] Psalm 100:5

[3] Exodus 34:6,7

[4] John 10:10

[5] Philippians 1:6

[6] John 16:33

[7] Ephesians 6:10-17

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