Bishop Eric Menees
O God, the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us thy mercy; that, thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
This week's collect is one of those truly beautiful prayers that Archbishop Cranmer included in the Book of Common Prayer but probably dates back to perhaps as far as Pope Gregory and the seventh century and the Gregorian Sacramentary. This prayer speaks to the heart and the mind and, I might add, raises some eyebrows.
I love the opening line which acknowledges the sovereignty and majesty of God who is the source of all strength and holiness. The collect petitions God to have mercy upon us during this transitory and often difficult life.
I've never understood those preachers who preach a "prosperity gospel" - which says "believe in Jesus and all will be well - you'll be wealthy and healthy all will be good." I've never understood how they could preach that gospel and read Matthew 16:24 "Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."
At the other end of the spectrum we live in a fallen and broken world that knows so much pain and sorrow - turn on the news or check out your computer newsfeed and see how Hamas militants are launching mortars into Israel killing innocent men, women and children then act completely surprised when Israel responds by bombing the back yard where the mortars were launched which also has "collateral damage" meaning that innocent men, women and children are killed.
This prayer asks God to have mercy on us in the midst of this "temporal" life that we may not fall into despair or cynicism or give into the Lie of Satan inviting us to worship the "creation rather than the creator" (Romans 1:25) - which is the very definition of paganism.
What raises the eyebrow is the conclusion of that petition - "Increase and multiply upon us thy mercy; that, thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal;" raises the fear in us that salvation may be lost.
Our salvation was established for us in Christ's sacrifice on the cross and our response to his love through our faith in Him. St. Paul said it so succinctly in his letter to the Ephesians - "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8) But what happens if we abandon our faith in Christ and place our faith in ourselves or false gods? What happens if we reject the gift of God? What happens is hell, literally. I suspect that little could break God's preverbal heart more than to have his adopted son or daughter reject him for themselves. Because God is gracious He allows us to love Him and receive His love and He allows us to reject Him and disavow His love. That rejection can have eternal consequences IF that rejection is not repented of. Again God is gracious and we have until our last breath.
That is why we need God's Mercy and Grace that we may keep our eyes on Him always aware of His Grace and Love...and to that I say AMEN!
Note: The Bishop's notes are written for the ADSJ and posted here with his permission for a wider audience. I included his Catechism question because To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism is a seminal document that I believe will help form our identity internally and give other churches an orthodox picture of Anglican Christianity in post Christian cultures. May God richly bless those who wrote it and those who read and inwardly digest it. The Catechism is available from the ACNA website as a PDF, Word or Kindle download. It is also available from Amazon as a leatherbound document.