Posted by: Titus Presler | October 18, 2009

Proper 24 Collect lifts up world church

This week’s Collect, for Propert 24, is inherently missional in its scope:

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen. – Book of Common Prayer (1979), p. 235

The global revelation of God is put in terms of God revealing God’s glory, which is fundamentally the showing forth of the very presence of God in the world.  Biblically, the revelation of God’s very self is often articulated as the manifestation of God’s glory, and God’s glory is often juxtaposed with mention of God’s face.  The two concepts come together in the Incarnation, the Word of God made flesh in Christ Jesus, of whom John says, “We have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (John 1.14).

The collect’s next phrase, the petition based on the collect’s premise of God’s revelation, is striking and unexpected: “Preserve the works of your mercy.”  What works?  This is probably a generic reference to all the fruits of God’s revelation in Christ: most fundamentally the communities gathered around the gospel, and then also all the forms of missional outreach that those communities have birthed – efforts in education and health care, compassion for the poor and bereft, prophetic action to bring justice to the oppressed.

So that what? – “. . . that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name.”  Preservation of the works of God’s mercy will enable and strengthen gospel people to persevere in the faith, that basic confession of God’s Name, which is the most basic confession there is: Yahweh in God’s covenant since creation, “Jesus is Lord” as the earliest Christian creed.

One might think of the Christian community’s life and witness as expressing its confession.  The collect perceives also that God’s providential preservation of that life and witness reflexively strengthens the church’s ability to persist in its faithful witness.

One could preach an entire homily on simply this collect at any time during this week.  From the collect’s proclamation one can go to any one or several of innumerable possible instances of God’s people showing forth God’s glory in their life and witness in any particular part of the world, explicate the particular work carried out by those Christians, and offer intercession that they be strengthened to persevere.  A recent posting on this blog concerning Christians in South Waziristan on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border would be an obvious example, and there are many, many others that the homilist can call to the minds of the faithful.

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Responses

  1. I love this connecting of “revealing” and revelation with the face of God! Whereas we often think of revelation as a movement forward, this reminds us that God’s revelation, true revelation, is in fact a dis*covering or un*covering of what always was.

    It’s interesting that Jacob named his wrestling spot Peniel, meaning “I have seen God face to face and yet my life is preserved” (Genesis 32). It was God’s revelation in this story that changed Jacob from a man with problems to the father of God’s holy nation, his wrestling match being the occasion for him receiving the name Israel.

    Thank you for this beautiful (and revealing 🙂 examination of the prayer. I think it is as important to understand what we pray, sometimes, as it is to pray. As Anglicans we value reason that goes hand in hand with faith.

    • Thanks so much, Charlotte, for your comment! Your observation about Jacob is helpfully provocative, for it reminds us that seeing God is not always experienced as an unmixed blessing. In the OT, seeing God is rather fearsome. Moses wishes to see God on Mt. Sinai, but God makes it clear that he would not survive a full-face revelation. Isaiah has a transporting vision in the temple, but then wails, “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclear lips.” In his prologue, John declares that the revelation of God in the Word made flesh is “full of grace and truth.” Yet when Jesus blesses Peter with a great catch of fish in Luke’s calling account, Peter’s response is not to exult, “Glory, hallelujah!” but to fall at Jesus’ feet and plead, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man!” I can imagine poem about Jacob entitled something like “Wounded by glory.”


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