Thursday, February 6, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for the Fifth Sunday of Epiphany

Bishop Eric Menees

This week's Collect speaks to the freedom and grace that can only be found in Jesus Christ, and which stands in opposition to the world around us. The world around us tries to argue that there really is no sin - just poor choices. They argue that we are already free, saying, “We are not sinners in need of salvation; we are children of God who simply need correction and guidance.” The doctrine of original sin has been replace by the philosophical construct that we are simply a tabula rasa - a blank slate. Being neither really good nor really bad, we simply need good parenting by a culture that is willing to take us by the hand and lead us to some sort of government sponsored utopia.

I believe that, at our core, we really know we are not a tabula rasa - we are fallen; selfish by nature; wanting what we want, when we want it. I often use the following example. Picture two lovely children from lovely families and homes. They are both placed into a room that is light, and warm, and comfortable. There is no furniture in the room they are in; they are alone save for two objects in the center of the room: a lovely, shiny, colorful toy and a fork. One child gets the toy, and one child gets the fork. How long do you think it will take for the child with the fork to realize that with the use of the fork he can have the toy as well? Do you know any very young child who would set down the fork and say, "Oh please, you play with the toy, and when you are done perhaps you'll allow me to play with it?" Or can you imagine the other very young child with the toy saying, "Gosh this seems to be unfair; please, you take the toy and I'll wait until you are done playing?"  That child does not exist, because in our nature we are sinners in need of salvation. Those children grow up and, no matter how lovely and kind they are, they, like all of us, have a sinful side - a side that seeks power and immediate gratification.

This Collect asks God to set us free from the power of sin, free from the grip of our selfish nature, and free to find our true freedom in the boundaries of a life in Christ.

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us, we beseech thee, the liberty of that abundant life which thou hast manifested to us in thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

You see here the abundant life that Jesus desires for us and which he promised in John 10:10 - "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." Abundant life is available to us who place our lives, our faith, and our trust in Jesus Christ. The thief, Satan, comes to us in the voice of a culture that says we are perfect just the way we are. The issue isn't our sin, it is our failure to accept the divine within us. The Lie of Satan is attractive and tempting, but does not lead to freedom. Instead, it leads to our bondage to the passions of our natural, sinful lives.

The good news is that when we pray this prayer with a true and contrite heart, God hears and responds.  Jesus died on the cross so that we can be saved from the penalty of our sin, and so that we may be freed from the chains of sin that bind us down. 
Thanks be to God for His love that comes to us and sets us free.  And to that I say...AMEN

Note: The "Notes to the church" articles are written by Bishop Menees for the Diocese of San Joaquin. I have posted them on Soundings with his permission for a wider audience. This is also the case for his "Why I am an Anglican" series. Dale+

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