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Fourth Sunday after Easter - 2013

The Fourth Sunday after Easter.

Psalm 37
Noli aemulari
( . . . )
4. Delight thou in the Lord : and he shall give thee thy heart’s desire.
( . . . )

The Collect.
O ALMIGHTY God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men; Grant unto thy people, that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Old Testament Reading: Ezekiel 39.21-29
Psalter: Psalm 126, 127, 128 | 129, 130, 131
Epistle Reading: James 1.17-21
Gospel Reading: St. John 16.5-15

Note: The preface of this Collect was changed in the 1662 BCP. It read, “Almighty God, which doest make the minds of all faithful men to be of one will.”

Barbee and Zahl: “This Collect is one of the high points of Anglican theology, a master piece of pure, perfect, prayed theology. The prayer bids us love that which we are required to do. The vision is for people to obey God’s commandment not out of constraint, nor even out of a sense of duty, but rather out of spontaneous desire. What a revolutionary idea! For the I ought to be the same thing as the I want” (59).

Personal reflection: 1st-Barbee’s and Zahl’s statement above brought me to think of a similar vein of sentiment from St. Augustine. For example, “I longed for honors, money, marriage, and you laughed at me. In these desires I underwent most bitter crosses, but in this you were too gracious to me to allow anything to grow sweet to me which was not yourself. ( . . . ) It does indeed make a difference where a man’s joy comes from” (“Confessions,” VI.6); and “Give what you command, and command what you will. ( . . . ) For he loves you too little who loves anything else with you which he does not love for you” (X.29). Coming to love and treasure the Giver and not the gifts is the transforming thing that begins in a believer as he grows in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This goes along with the 1 verse selection from Psalm 37 (above). Delighting in the LORD, changes the desires of our heart. We often get the trailer before the truck and want to ask whatever we desire, and then think that getting our desire will bring us delight in the LORD. Our internal gyro system has to be changed. First, find your delight and pleasure in the LORD, then as your delight and pleasure is fully engaged there, you will see your “heart’s desire” change, and you will find yourself desiring God’s desires, and praying God’s pleasure.

“For there is a joy which is not given to the ungodly, but to those who love you for your own sake, whose joy is you yourself. And this is the happy life: to rejoice in you, of you, for you. This is true joy and there is no other” (“Confessions,” X.22).

2nd-I have used this Collect for several years, when praying for whatever congregation has been committed to my charge (1928 BCP 572-1st prayer), myself and my family, or the Church catholic. But I have also found that by a mild tweaking (from “thy people” to “the nations”) this Collect is a valuable rule for praying over our world scene with all of its unruliness.

3rd-I’m not absolutely certain, but I suspect that the wording toward the end of the Collect is intentionally playful: “that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found.” This word “fixed” is the specific point. It can mean two things, and both are extremely important and fitting in this prayer. (a) In this stormy, catastrophic, tumultuous world our hearts need to be anchored or “fixed” onto the place where true joys are to be found (see John 16.33). And yet, at the same time (b) our hearts, damaged by sin, fear, disillusionment in this changing, fluctuating, bucking-bronc kind of world, need to be repaired or “fixed”; and the only place it can be mended is where true joys are to be found – at the right hand of God where Jesus intercedes for us (Psalm 16.11; Hebrews 4.14-16).

 I commend this 1662 BCP version of the Collect to you as a thoughtful and advantageous part of your equipage while you “endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2.3).

Primus Pilus II


Third Sunday after Easter - 2013

The Third Sunday after Easter.
Psalm 119
( . . . )
In quo corriget?
WHEREWITHAL shall a young man cleanse his way : even by ruling himself after thy word.
10. With my whole heart have I sought thee : O let me not go wrong out of thy commandments.
11. Thy words have I hid within my heart : that I should not sin against thee.
( . . . )

The Collect.
ALMIGHTY God, who shewest to them that be in error the light of thy truth, to the intent that they may return into the way of righteousness; Grant unto all them that are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s Religion, that they may eschew those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Old Testament Reading: 1 Samuel 2.1b-10
Psalter: Psalm 120, 121, 122 | 123, 124, 125
Epistle Reading: 1 Peter 2.11-17
Gospel Reading: St. John 16.16-24

Barbee and Zahl: “This Collect is from the Sacramentary of Leo I and is one of the oldest in the Prayer Book. The petition reflects the fact that Easter is a principle time for baptism, thus the reference to “all them that be admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s religion” [Lat. Qui Christiana professione censentor – who are enrolled as Christians by profession]. ( . . . ) The Collect for the Third Sunday after Easter draws its power from the relation it represents between “the light of thy truth” and “the way of righteousness.” We might have expected the Collect to posit God’s showing forth His light to all “that be in error,” to the intent that we would return to His truth. But no! The intent of our receiving His light is, in the Prayer Book logic, that we return to “the way of righteousness.” Truth creates right doing! How can this be so? Truth here must be something potent in practice. It must be more than abstraction. It must be more than principles or correct thinking. It is in fact relationship. It is fellowship with God, to use the Collect’s phrase. Truth enables relationship. The link between truth and relationship is the truth about ourselves in the light of the truth about God. When we are truly known, particularly in the darkness and shadows of our lives, by a Love which does not reject, we are cemented to God. To be known in truth and at the same time loved is the coup de grace to our retreat from relationship. If what you believe is God’s truth (grace) and your truth (the way you really are), the fruit of your belief will be works of righteousness and “all such things as are agreeable to the same.” The relation between what you believe and what you do will be of cement, or better, of steel” (56-7).

Primus Pilus II


Second Sunday after Easter-2013

The Second Sunday after Easter.

Psalm 49
Audite haec, omnes
( . . . )
6. There be some that put their trust in their goods : and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches.
7. But no man may deliver his brother : nor make agreement unto God for him;
8. For it cost more to redeem their souls : so that he must let that alone for ever;
9. Yea, though he live long : and see not the grave.
( . . . )
Interesting note: the 1662 BCP Psalter is different here from the 1928 BCP. In the 1928 BCP Psalter, v.9 looks this way: “9 That he shall live always, * and not see the grave.”

The Collect.
ALMIGHTY God, who has given thine only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin, and also an ensample of godly life; Give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit, and also daily endeavour ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 40.1-11
Psalter: Psalm 21, 23 | 116, 117
Epistle Reading: 1 Peter 2.19-25
Gospel Reading: St. John 10.11-16

Barbee and Zahl: “Practical Pelagianism is any way of living by which responsibility for the willing and doing of the right thing is yours. The ball is in your court, really and actually, rather than that of the unseen God. You may pray to God, even for specific assistance, but you act as though it were up to you. ( . . . ) The Collect for the Second Sunday after Easter parries Pelagianism. Yes, it invites us to follow Christ. Yes, it sets out Christ as the way-shower and exemplar of the human race. But it beds the exemplary character of Christ’s life in his “sacrifice for sin” and “his inestimable benefit” (i.e., for us). In theological language, we could say that the Collect invokes the Atonement as the foundation of our living out concretely a Christ-like life” (55).


The First Sunday after Easter-2013

The First Sunday after Easter.

Psalm 143
Domine, exaudi
HEAR my prayer, O Lord, and consider my desire : hearken unto me for thy truth and righteousness’ sake.
2. And enter not into judgement with thy servant : for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.
( . . . )
7. Hear me, O Lord, and that soon, for my spirit waxeth faint : hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit.
8. O let me hear thy loving-kindness betimes in the morning, for in thee is my trust : shew thou me the way that I should walk in, for I lift up my soul unto thee.
( . . . )

The Collect.
ALMIGHTY Father, who has given thine only Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification; Grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may alway serve thee in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 43.1-12
Psalter: Psalm 110, 111 | 2, 57
Epistle Reading: 1 John 5.4-12
Gospel Reading: St. John 20.19-23

Barbee and Zahl: “What is the “leaven of malice and wickedness” which the Collect bids us put away? ( . . . ) “Leaven” refers to teaching (St. Matthew 16:11; St. Luke 12:1). Leaven is used in the Gospels to denote the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees, which is specified further, in Luke’s Gospel, as being hypocrisy. ( . . . ) So much emphasis is placed by their teaching on rectitude, that the motives and intentions inside the person come to be of less weight than the actual doing of things as observed from the outside. The problem with this, and the reason why Jesus excoriates it as producing “whited sepulchers,” which outside are nice enough to look at but inside are full of dead men’s bones (St. Matthew 23:27), is that performance on its own term can easily conceal a tawdry bag of mixed motives. The results of hypocrisy include malice (i.e., active resentment and envy) and wickedness (i.e., immorality, conspiracy, and active evil hidden). Now we can understand why the Collect focuses on the Lord who rose again “for our justification.” In order to avoid the “leaven” or teaching of Pharisaism, which clocks in the deed rather than the ‘will for the deed,” we have to know that our status before God has been secured previously. We do not require justification before other people, or self-justification, or even justification before God on the basis of any outward standard. God has justified us by placing us in a new sphere of unimpeachable regard. This He has done by virtue of the death and resurrection of Christ. Therefore, we, being justified, do not require the imperative “Just Do It.” Christ has done it. The Collect for Easter I, pure Thomas Cranmer in its formation, arrangement, and placement, draws profoundly on St. Paul’s linking of our justification with Christ’s resurrection in Romans 4:25. If the prayer does nothing more than send us back to that verse, it has done its job well” (53).

Primus Pilus II