Thursday, March 6, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for the First Sunday in Lent

Bishop Eric Menees

This week, we began the Season of Lent with the beautiful and fearful service of Ash Wednesday. In that service we were reminded of The Fall and, as a result, of our mortality, with the imposition of ashes and the statement: "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return." These words are taken from Genesis 3:19... "By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  

In the Ash Wednesday Liturgy, we were also invited to the practice of keeping a Holy Lent through self-denial and self-discipline. In the midst of these practices, Satan loves to come to us and tempt us. Isn't it amazing that we may decide to give up the television in order to spend more time in prayer, and all of a sudden we are plagued with thoughts about how much we like this or that show, sports game, or news cast? Almost immediately, the rationalizations come to our minds: "Sports isn't really watching TV, it's enjoying a game...or the news...I've got to keep up on events and the weather." Satan is the Father of all Lies (John 8:44), and his voice can sound exactly like ours in the midst of temptation.

It is for this reason that we must call upon the Holy Spirit to assist us in the midst of our temptations. It is through the Holy Spirit that we are victorious in our decision to deny ourselves and live for Christ. St. Paul, in writing to his young apprentice Timothy, said: "For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."  (2 Timothy 1:6-7)

This week's Collect, though not original to Archbishop Cranmer, reminds us that we are powerful in The Lord, but that we need to "fan into flame the gift of God," which is the Holy Spirit. In him we should have no fear, and we must trust in his power, which is made manifest in love AND self-control. And so, it is with confidence that we pray this collect for the first week of Lent, as we begin our fasts and our disciplines of prayer, scripture reading, and service.

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan; Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. 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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