Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bishop's Note: The Collects - Fourth Sunday of Advent

Bishop Eric Menees

The Collect for the Fourth Sunday in Advent:

"We beseech thee, Almighty God, to purify our consciences by thy daily visitation, that when thy Son our Lord cometh he may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen." 

This collect calls the church to the difficult and important task of inviting Christ to, "...purify our consciences by thy daily visitation." Archbishop Cranmer knew of our need for that daily purification; that daily examination; that daily conviction of the Holy Spirit. I say this is difficult, because it is difficult for me to not only allow (passive) but to invite (active) God to convict my of sin. This is difficult because I prefer to rationalize and say that all is well. The problem is that all is not well. Unless and until I am willing to accept responsibility for my actions, and to receive God's Grace in purifying me, I cannot move forward in my spiritual growth and development. Give and take - that is the ticket. I give my life to the Lord, my whole life - good and bad - and allow him to have his way with me. In that way, whether I meet the Lord via my death or his second coming, I am prepared to meet him and, equally important, there is room in my heart and life for him both now and in the future!

As we approach Christmas Day, just six days away, the excitement and anticipation is rising. This is true whether you are five or ninety-five: the celebration of the anniversary of the Incarnation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is a tremendous event. I recall as a boy those Christmas mornings when I would wait with baited breath to hear my parents stirring, giving me the signal that it was OK to go downstairs to find out what was under the Christmas Tree. 

As a child, it was all about me and what I would receive at Christmas. As I grew older, I discovered the truth of Jesus' words: "It is more blessed to give than to receive." However, to receive the fullest meaning of Jesus words, we should look at that quote in its context. St. Paul is on his third missionary journey, and he's called the elders of Ephesus together to share with them the work he's done as an example for them. As always, St. Paul doesn't use his ministry as the highest example, but rather that of Jesus. Here is the whole quote from Acts 20:35: "In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” We are called to pour out ourselves for Jesus by helping those who are weak and alone, and in doing so we receive such a blessing. 

Years ago I was the chaplain at The Bishop's School in San Diego. A requirement of the school was for students to do a certain number of service hours each semester, and to complete a specific number of hours in order to graduate. Often, kids would grumble and complain, and many seniors still needed a lot of hours in order to fulfill their requirements. To assist them, I would lead a weekend long service project in Tijuana working with orphans and the poor. Kids would moan and groan about working, but then as we were crossing the boarder coming back, I'd take the time to debrief the weekend with them. No student ever said: "Man, I regret helping those orphans or working with people in need." Why? Because it is indeed more blessed to give than to receive.

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: