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Friday, April 26, 2013

Reflections on the Collect for the Fourth Sunday after Easter

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 (1662 Book of Common Prayer)

As I have pondered this prayer for years, it has drawn my mind to a similar vein of sentiment found in 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); 
“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 Psalm 37.4, "Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart." 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. 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 experience 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, as well as for 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, derailed by fear, deflated by disillusionment in this changing, fluctuating, bucking-bronc kind of world, need to be repaired or “fixed”; and the only place they 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 prayer to you as a thoughtful and advantageous part of your equipage while you “endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2.3).


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