Thursday, February 20, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for the Seventh Sunday in Epiphany

Bishop Eric Menees

O Lord, who hast taught us that all our doings without charity are nothing worth; Send thy Holy Ghost and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity, the very bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whosoever liveth is counted dead before thee. Grant this for thine only Son Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

This Collect of Archbishop Cranmer is as beautiful as it is convicting and challenging.  Archbishop Cranmer challenges the church with four different things.

First, he acknowledges before The Lord that all of our works and actions, if they are done without Charity, are for naught. It is interesting that the Archbishop used the term “Charity” rather than "Love," which he uses in other collects. Charity can be translated as love, but really has a larger meaning than that. Charity, in its broadest sense, includes love of God as well as love of man. In other words, it is the love of the Great Commandment - Matthew 22:36-40.

Secondly, this collect acknowledges that Charity is a gift from God that comes as an anointing of the Holy Spirit. No matter how hard we try, we cannot infuse the gift of Charity  - this love of God and man - into ourselves by shear will power or desire. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit that is so much more than a thought or a feeling - it is a virtue.

Thirdly, Archbishop Cranmer implores God the Holy Spirit to give this gift of Charity to us, which we experience passively as peace and actively as a virtue. This peace, or Shalom, is what St. Paul promised for those who rejoice in the Lord in his epistle to the Philippians, [7] “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 ESV) This Shalom is so much more than the absence of violence or strife in our lives - it is the active presence of the Holy Spirit! It is that very presence of the Holy Spirit that leads us to actively love. The virtue of Charity calls us to go beyond ourselves to care for another as an expression of our love for God, and to love God as an expression of our love for man. It is that beautiful interrelationship - the dance with God - that Archbishop Cranmer is desires for us, the People of God.

Fourthly, Archbishop Cranmer desires this for us because he knows that, without it, we are dead; Dead in sin, dead in self, and dead in the world. You see, one of the great deceptions of the devil is the idea that if we embrace the world - if we seek all the "gusto" in life - we are, in fact alive. But that is only a deception. The more we embrace the world the more we sin, and the more we sin the more callous we become to the things of the Spirit. That is why St. Paul argues that we are to die to sin and be raised to new life in Jesus Christ.  "How can we who died to sin still live in it? [3] Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? [4] We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:2-4 ESV)

This collect speaks to the reality that we are either alive or dead, living in Grace or dying to sin. Satan tries to tell us - and we try to tell ourselves this too - that there is this gray area where it's enough just to be nice, isn’t it? It's enough just to not harm others, isn't it? 

The answer to that is, NO! Our Lord Jesus looks to us with the eyes of compassion and perfect understanding, and says to you and to me, "I love you!" Our answer to that can only be made through the power of the Holy Spirit: "I love you, Lord. Please allow my life to demonstrate that love." 

My prayer for you and my prayer for me is that our lives will demonstrate our answer to Jesus.  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+ 

No comments: