Gleanings from the Collects: Twenty Third Sunday after Pentecost

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, as we live among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This collect was found in the Leonine Sacramentary[1] of the 7th Century and first appeared in English in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. It originally was written in the context of the barbarian invasions.[2]

There is a story about Canute King of England. He was well loved but when his people began to ascribe to him god-like qualities, he ordered his throne to be taken to the seashore. Sitting in the throne he commanded the tide not to rise, but it did nonetheless. He took off his crown, placed it on a crucifix and never wore it again. The lesson to his people was that only God is worthy of all honor and only He controls all things. Thus we invoke His help to address our anxieties and make right our priorities.

While the prayer does ask the Lord to free us from anxiety, it also gives us guidance on how to remain free. We walk in God’s peace as He helps us, “not to be anxious about earthy things but love things heavenly” and “hold fast to those (things) that shall endure.”

This is the perspective to which Jesus calls us in the Sermon on the Mount. He tells us not to worry about what we will eat or drink or what we will wear. He assures us that our heavenly Father knows that we need these things and that we can trust Him to provide them. Our calling is make the Kingdom of God our priority and in doing so we store up “treasures in heaven.”[3]

St. Paul reiterates Jesus’ teaching by saying, “Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”[4]

[1] Liturgical book used by the priest

[2] Commentary on the American Prayer Book. Marion Hatchett p. 192

[3] See Matthew 6

[4] Colossians 3:1-3

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