Thursday, October 23, 2014

Bishop's Note: Collect for Pentecost 20 - Proper 25

Bishop Eric Menees

“Almighty and everlasting God, give unto us the increase of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain that which thou dost promise, make us to love that which thou dost command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

It's hard to pray this Collect and not immediately recognize that Archbishop Cranmer was referring to St. Paul and 1st Corinthians 13:13: So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. This past Saturday, I witnessed a little slice of heaven as Fr. Derek Thomason, who is battling cancer, presided at the marriage service between his son, Matthew, and Matthew’s bride, Tirzah. The Epistle reading was, you guessed it, 1st Corinthians 13.

St. Paul lays out, in Chapter 12, a list of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and in Chapter 13 he goes on to make clear that the greatest gift of God is the gift of LOVE. Love is the gift that sustains and supports all of the other gifts of the Spirit. As St. Paul says: "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Cor. 13:1-3) Therefore, if Love is the supporting Grace of God that allows for the fruitful exercise of the Spiritual Gifts, then we should pray earnestly for God to grant us the gift of Love. As I write this, I am convicted that I do not ask God to grant me the gift of love often enough. As a result, I have begun praying already that the Lord would grant me this gift in spades.

The second half of the Collect is equally as beautiful. It links receiving the promise of God with the desire to love God's commands. To put this in relational terms: As Florence and I began to date and my interest in her as a person turned into warm feelings for her, which proceeded to turn into a deep and profound love for her, my desire to please her grew greater and greater. In desiring to please her, I desired to do as she would like.

If we draw this very incomplete analogy to our relationship with our Heavenly Father, then the greater the love we have, the greater desire we have to please Him and, thus, to follow His commandments.

In short, this collect asks for God’s grace and assistance in fulfilling the Great Commandment: "You are to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  This is the first and great commandment and the next is like unto it; love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets."   And to that I say...AMEN!

Catechism Questions 31 - 33

31.    What does it mean that Holy Scripture is inspired?

Holy Scripture is “God-breathed,” for the biblical authors wrote under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit to record God's Word. (2 Timothy 3:16)

32.    What does it mean that the Bible is the Word of God?

Because the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit, it is rightly called the Word of God written. God is revealed in his mighty works and in the incarnation of our Lord, but his works and his will are made known to us through the inspired words of Scripture. God “has spoken through the prophets” (Nicene Creed), and continues to speak through the Bible today. (Hebrews 1:1-2; 3:7-11; 10:15-17; 12:25-27)

33.    Why is Jesus Christ called the Word of God?

The fullness of God’s revelation is found in Jesus Christ, who not only fulfills the Scriptures, but is himself God's Word, the living expression of God’s mind. The Scriptures testify about him: “In the beginning was the Word” and “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Therefore, “ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” (John 1:1, 14; Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah, prologue)

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