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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

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