The Collect for Proper 15: The Sunday closest to August 17

Almighty God,
you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life:
Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work,
and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(BCP 232)

Marion Hatchett states that this Collect was originally composed for the first BCP of 1549 for the second Sunday after Easter but that the Collect that we currently have appointed for that Sunday is more appropriate for that particular Sunday.  This Collect “explains both the work of Christ and the response of the Christian” (Hatchett, 190). 

The Preamble, “Almighty God,” indicates that what follows in this Collect will focus our attention on God’s mighty work of our redemption.

The Acknowledgement, “you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life,” is the explanation of the work of Christ for our redemption that Hatchett has highlighted.   Three important concepts are woven together in this Acknowledgement: sin, the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf, and Jesus’s life and death providing us an example of godly life that we are to imitate.

Sin—whether by our own fault, “in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we left undone” or what has been “done on our behalf”—distorts our relationship with God and each other, pollutes our world and wastes its resources, and limits our liberty (See the Confessions in Morning and Evening Prayer and the Holy Eucharist, BCP 79, 116, 360; Enriching Our Worship I, 19, 56; the Ash Wednesday Litany of Penitence, BCP 268; and the Catechism: Sin and Redemption, BCP 848-9). 

Sacrifice—through Jesus’ sacrifice, he “made the offering which we could not make; in him we are freed from the power of sin and reconciled to God” (Catechism:  God the Son, BCP 850).  The mystery of our redemption through the sacrifice of God’s only Son is central to our faith (see John 3:16-18 and Hebrews 9:11-10:18).  This central truth is threaded throughout our worship, maybe most poetically in the Pascha Nostra (“Christ our Sacrifice”) used as the Invitatory hymn in Morning Prayer for Easter Week and, optionally, until the Day of Pentecost (BCP 83).  Recalling Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf is central to our understanding of the Eucharist.  We hear of his sacrifice for the sake of the world in our Eucharistic Prayers at The Breaking of the Bread: “[Alleluia.] Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; Therefore let us keep the feast. [Alleluia.]” (BCP 364, see also BCP 362, 379, and 403).  See note 1 at the end of this meditation for additional examples found in our liturgy.  

Example—As those united to Jesus in his death and resurrection, we are to pattern our lives after his, seeking to live according to God’s will, not the ways of the world that lead to sin.  Following the way of Jesus, as described in Philippians 2:1-18, is how we live out our baptism through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.   See note 2 for examples of this call to a sacrificial life in imitation of Jesus from our liturgy.

In this Acknowledgement, the Father is the one who has given his Son as our example and as the sacrifice for our sins that provides a way for us to be reconciled and redeemed.  This Acknowledgement invites us to remember that the persons of the Trinity are in harmony and each is generous and loving beyond measure on our behalf.

In the Petition, “Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life,” we ask for God’s almighty grace to shape our hearts to be thankful for the transformation of our wills and our lives so that we follow Jesus in such a way that our lives reflect his life, death, and resurrection.  Becoming like Christ is a gift, and even receiving this gift with joy is itself a gift.

The Pleading, “through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen” is the typical Pleading used in many of our Collects.  “Through Jesus Christ,” in this particular Collect, could be understood as short-hand for “through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, your only Son” from the beginning of this Collect.   

During the pandemic, much about how we live our lives has changed.  Some of these changes are best described as sacrifices.  Some might have come easily or might have been incredibly difficult and hard to bear. During this time of pandemic, what sacrifices have you made and why?  What sacrifices have we made as a parish and why? 

How might thinking about these sacrifices as ways of living a godly life, following Jesus’ example, through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, change how we think about these sacrifices?

Almighty God,
you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life:
Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work,
and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(BCP 232)

Note 1:  According to the Catechism, the Eucharist is “the Church’s sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, … the way by which the sacrifice of Christ is made present, and in which he unites us to his one offering of himself” (BCP 859).  Through Jesus’s sacrifice on our behalf our altars are consecrated (BCP 573) and penitents are reconciled (see especially in the words that a deacon or a lay person may use to declare forgiveness, BCP 448).

Note 2:  In two of the Offertory sentences, we are invited to a sacrificial life as followers of Jesus:  “Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God.   Ephesians 5:2” and “to present [ourselves] as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is [our] spiritual worship.   Romans 12:1” (BCP 376).  In the prayer that the Celebrant prays over the candidate for baptism we hear “Grant, O Lord, that all who are baptized into the death of Jesus Christ your Son may live in the power of his resurrection … (BCP 306).  In the Eucharist, the Celebrant prays on our behalf that we all might be “sanctified by the Holy Spirit” through Jesus’s sacrifice (Eucharistic Prayer B, BCP 369) and “may become one body and one spirit, a living sacrifice in Christ …” (Eucharistic Prayer D, 373, 5).

© 2021 Donna Hawk-Reinhard, edited by Kate McCormick
The citations from Marion Hatchett are from his Commentary on the American Prayer Book, HarperOne, 1995
Page references to The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) are from the 1979 standard edition. 

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