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

Gleanings from the Collects: Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This collect is found in a 10th century illuminated manuscript.[1] It was translated into English by Archbishop Cranmer and is found in subsequent Books of Common Prayer.

Because God is “almighty and everlasting” it follows that He governs “all things in heaven and on earth.” If He were not then He could not. It also follows that because He is almighty and governs all things, that He is perfectly able to hear the prayers of His people grant us His peace.

Two significant points are made in this prayer. The first is that we are to pray for peace “in our time.” Peace is not something that we look for only in the “sweet by and by.” Jesus taught us to pray for the kingdom to come in the here and now. We are not to be so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good. And if the Church does not pray for God’s peace “in our time” who will? Admittedly it is a broad and bold prayer but then again Jesus said we are to offer prayers that move mountains.[2]

The second significant point is that we are to pray for God’s peace and Jesus tells us that His peace is distinctively different from the peace that the world has to offer. He said, “Peace I leave you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, not let it be fearful.”[3]

The world’s idea of peace is a lack of conflict and it does not really matter how such peace is attained. We follow dictators because they make the trains run on time. We build communities where everyone is equal, except for the ones who are a little more equal than the others. We rewrite history by editing out the parts that makes us uncomfortable. We censor those who disagree with us and remove their voice from public platforms. We even create violent groups that attack anyone that they perceive to be potentially violent.

Jesus’ peace, however, in not an absence of conflict. It is Him napping in the boat in the midst of a storm. It is forgiving those who were crucifying Him. It is calling out the Scribes and Pharisees for the burdens that they were placing on God’s people. It is even tipping over tables and driving money changers out of the temple so that God’s House would be a house of prayer.

Jesus’ peace is rooted in His relationship with His Father. He said that He did what He did “so that the world may know that I love the Father.”[4]  And the peace that He promised was because He was going to the Father.[5] He prayed “You Father are in Me and I in you, that they also may be in Us.”[6] Thus His peace comes to us in a connection to the Father through the Son. It comes when we realize that because we are in Them then nothing can separate us from God’s love.

[1] Gregorian sacramentary

[2] Matthew 17:20

[3] John 14:27 NASB

[4] John 14:31 NASB

[5] John 14:28

[6] John 17:21

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

Gleanings from the Collects: Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

O God, our refuge and strength, true source of all godliness: Graciously hear the devout prayers of your Church, and grant that those things which we ask faithfully, we may obtain effectually; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

While absent from the 1979 American Book of Common Prayer this collect can be found in the 1662 and 1828 BCP. In both cases it was the collect for the 23rd Sunday after Trinity.

The idea of God being “our refuge and strength” can be found throughout the Psalms.[1]  Refuge is defined as “a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble.”[2] It is a revelation of God that is meant to bring us comfort and peace.       

Next the collect recognizes the LORD as the “true source of all godliness.” This is vital insight because too often holiness is associated with the proper keeping of rules and traditions. “Don’t drink, smoke or chew or run with people who do.” But the collect shows that godliness is a consequence of our connection to God on a personal level. As branches we have been grafted into the Vine and the stronger our connection the more of the Vine’s godly life we will receive.[3]  

We call on God to hear the “devout prayers of your Church.” This is an expression that brings balance to the all too frequent “me and Jesus” mentality that sees the Church as optional. Scripture tells us that we are individual members of the Body of Christ[4] and so a separated member would be as in much peril as an amputated limb. St. Cyprian (d.258) concluded, “No one can have God for his Father, who does not have the Church for his mother.”[5]        

In a lovely turn of phrase “we ask faithfully” that “we may obtain effectually.” This is not a timid request. When we ask “faithfully” we are literally asking ‘full of faith” that our prayers will be heard and answered. Scripture declares, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”[6]

[1] 18:2; 31:20; 46:1; 71:3; 91:2

[2] Oxford Languages

[3] John 15

[4] I Corinthians 12:12-27

[5] The Unity of the Church

[6] Hebrews 4:16 KJV

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

Gleanings from the Collects: Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

O merciful Lord, grant to your faithful people pardon and peace, that we may be cleansed from all our sins and serve you with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

This collect is found in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer on the Twenty-First Sunday after the Trinity. It was appointed as a petition in Burial Office in the 1979 BCP and returned as a Sunday Collect in the 2019 BCP.

The brief prayer is instructive. Highlighting God’s mercy it calls on the Lord to grant us “pardon and peace.” The order here is not accidental for without pardon there can be no peace; neither peace with God nor with one another.

Next we see that just as the goal of pardon is “that we may be cleansed from all our sins, so the goal of peace is to “serve you with a quiet mind.” Thus while the world tells us that our goal is be to be happy, we are reminded that the goal of the Christian is faithful service.

But why service “with a quiet mind?” Because service that flows from other sources, such as guilt or manipulation or intimidation, forces us back into unhealthy servitude from which Christ came to set us free.[1]

How do we attain a quiet mind? It begins by being pardoned and it continues as we realize just how merciful is our Lord. “Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.”[2] A quite mind is attained as we rest in His love, knowing that nothing can separate us from Him.[3] A quiet mind comes from knowing “if God is for us then who can be against us?”[4] A quiet mind comes from entering the room of trust in a loving Father and closing the door behind us. A quiet mind comes from reminding ourselves daily and throughout the day that “I have been accepted in the Beloved[5] and the kingdom cannot be shaken.”[6]

[1] John 8:36

[2] Deuteronomy 7:9

[3] Romans 8:35-39

[4] Romans 8:31

[5] Ephesians 1:6

[6] Hebrews 12:28

Gleanings from the Collects: Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

O Lord, you have taught us that without love, all our deeds are worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity, the true bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whoever lives is counted dead before you; grant this for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This collect first appeared in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer. It reflects the teaching of 1 Corinthians 13 as well as Jesus declaration of the Great Commandment.[1] It reminds us that if we do not love God and our neighbor that our religion is worthless.

But the love spoken of here is unique. It is not romantic love nor is it the self-righteous love that is so prominent in our virtue signaling culture. This love is a godly love and therefore can only become true in us by the work of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul taught that it is first among the fruits of the Spirit.[2]

The collect teaches that love is the “true bond of peace” but adds “and of all virtues.” This is important insight. If we seek to instill other virtues such as temperance, but do not have them bonded to love, then such virtues easily turn into legalism or produce pride.

The collect takes a startling turn from speaking of “the excellent gift of charity” to stating that without it we are “counted dead” before God. At first blush such a statement seems to be the opposite of charity. But upon reflection we realize that it is truth, truth spoken in love.  St. John wrote that anyone who does not love does not know God because God is love.[3] He further states that the one who loves abides in God and God abides in Him.[4] Thus to not have love is to not have God and that is why we could rightly be counted as dead.

The prayer ends with the strong appeal. “Grant this for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ…” This is a shorthanded way of asking God to hear us, not because we are worthy, but because Jesus is worthy. We are asking the Father to take into account all that the Son has accomplished and promised and thereby hear our prayer.

[1] Matthew 22:36-40

[2] Galatians 5:22

[3] I John 4:7,8

[4] I John 4:16

Gleanings from the Collects: Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

O Lord God, grant your people grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and with pure hearts and minds to follow you, the only God; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

This collect is new to the American Book of Common Prayer. However a similar petition may be found in the Great Litany.[1]

The idea that God’s people are battling “the world, the flesh and the devil” comes from the Epistle to the Ephesians, chapter 2 verses 1-3. “And you were dead in the trespasses and sinsin which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the bodyand the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

Care must be taken to properly define these three battlefronts so that we do not form a circular firing squad. When we speak of “the world” we are not implying that the created order is evil. The opposite is true. St. Paul teaches in Romans that creation reveals the invisible attributes of God.[2]If you have had your breath taken away by a beautiful sunset or a royal mountain range or a majestic red wood tree, then you know this to be true.

When we speak of “the world” we are referring to the worldly temptations that draw us away from God. These are not limited to, but certainly include, the temptations of riches, fame, power, and the godless systems, philosophies and cultures that promote the same. 

When we speak of “the flesh” we are not referring to our bodies or even to our bodily needs. God created man as the apex of His creation and God Himself took on our flesh in the Incarnation. The body of a Christian is a temple of the Holy Spirit.[3]Thus our flesh is not evil as some heresies have contended. 

The “flesh” in this prayer refers to our longings and appetites that are driven by sin. This is commonly seen when we distort the gifts of God. He gives us bread to eat and we become gluttons. He gives us the fruit of the vine and we become drunkards. He gives marriage the gift of sex and we become promiscuous and perverse. He causes our cup to overflow and we become selfish hoarders. The “flesh” is that two year old that lives in us all who wants it his way and wants it now!

When we speak of “the devil” we are not speaking metaphorically. We are referring to a spiritual being that is our hated enemy. Jesus’ 40 days of temptation in the wilderness reveal the devil as one who would be god. Countless souls have been deceived by him and made him theirs. 

A 19thcentury French poet[4]wrote, “One of the artifices of Satan is, to induce men to believe that he does not exist: another, perhaps equally fatal, is to make them fancy that he is obliged to stand quietly by, and not to meddle with them…” While this poet seemed to have not heeded his own advice, the lesson is that we invite peril if we do not believe that the devil exists or if we think him to be idle.

St. Paul tells us that the grace for which we pray to stand against these temptations is readily available to us. Verses 4-7 states, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses,made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

[1]Written by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer with the bulk of the material taken from the Sarum Rite of the 11thC. 

[2]Romans 1:20

[3]I Corinthians 6:19

[4]Charles Baudelaire

Gleanings from the Collects: Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

O Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow after us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

This collect can be found in the Gregorian sacramentary[1]of the 10thcentury. Although it is brief, it stands as a corrective to several theological errors.

The first error is Pelagianism. This is the belief that man can do good apart from the grace of God. However Scripture tells us that apart from grace our good works are “filthy rags.”[2]Jesus said that no one is good but God.[3]  We know this to be true when we consider the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. The only proper motive for doing good is to glorify God but that motive is only possible by the grace of God. And even then our motives are mixed at best. Thus we need to have God’s grace to “proceed and follow us” if we are to do good.

The second error is sola fide. This is belief that all one needs is faith to attain everlasting life. This error is corrected by the Book of James. “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what goodis that?So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”[4]While good works do not save us they are the fruit of salvation. If the fruit is absent, then the tree is likely dead.

The third error is works righteousness. This is the belief that we can or must earn our salvation. St. Paul corrects this error. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”[5]

Thus this brief collect offers us a perfectly balanced theology that guides our daily lives. Since we can no good thing apart from grace, we call on the Lord to have His grace to go before and after us. Then in response to His gift of grace we give ourselves continually to good works that glorify His Name. In short, we love because He first loved us[6]and that love directs us to be His servants in the world.

[1]A book of liturgy that contains the priest’s words 

[2]Isaiah 64:6

[3]Mark 10:18, Romans 3:10-12

[4]James 2:14-17 ESV

[5]Ephesians 2:8,9 NIV


Gleanings from the Collects: Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; 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 the Gelasian sacramentary[1]of the 8thcentury and the Sarum Rite[2]of the 11th Century.

The prayer has an immediacy about it because it begins with a petition rather than an opening acclamation, such as “Almighty God….” It calls upon the Lord to do four things for His Church (and it is always important to remind ourselves of whose Church it is).

We pray for Him to cleanse, defend, protect and govern the Church.

It is noteworthy that rather than appealing to His power and might to help us, we appeal to His “mercy” and “goodness.” This reflects the revelation of Holy Scripture that God’s very nature is goodness and that He longs to shower us with mercy and blessings. Consider just a few texts. 

  • The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth. Exodus 34:6
  • Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34
  • Good and upright is the Lord. Psalm 25:8
  • The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works. Psalm 145:9
  • Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:17
  • If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Matthew 7:11
  • Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting. Psalm 100:4-5

It is wise to first call upon the Lord to cleanse His Church before asking Him to defend, protect and govern her. A pattern becomes evident in the Old Testament of God longing to bless and show mercy to His people but they would stray from His commandments, seek other gods, and ultimately bring calamity upon themselves. When we are honest with ourselves we will admit that this is not only an Old Testament pattern. Thus the first appeal is to be cleansed so that we do not fall into unwholesome pits of our own making. 

While the appeal does not directly address the Holy Spirit, it is the role of the Holy Spirit to make the Church holy, and so we can look for the answer to this prayer to come in the form of the Helper[3]whom Jesus promised.  

[1]Book of liturgy containing the priest’s part of the Mass

[2]Rite of Salisbury Cathedral

[3]John 14:16