The Collect for Proper 18: The Sunday closest to September 7

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts;
for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength,
so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen.
(BCP 233)

From Marion Hatchett:  while this Collect was originally used in the 7th-century Roman sacramentary, and an English translation was available in 1862 in William Bright’s Ancient Christian Collects, its use in the BCP is new to 1979.  The biblical foundation for this Collect is James 4:6 (Hatchett, 191)

This Collect is organized a bit differently from the traditional Collect form. 

The Preamble, “O Lord,” is most likely best read as addressing God using God’s revealed name (Lord), with an emphasis upon God’s intimate and covenantal relationship with us.

The Acknowledgement, “for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength,

so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy,” is a paraphrase of James 4:6 (see also Luke 18:9-14, 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, 1 Peter 5:5).  This two-part Acknowledgement gives an insight into God’s judgment of human persons that begins in this age and continues into the next.

The in first half of the Acknowledgement “the proud” are defined as those “who confide in their own strength” – they are the ones who are “wise in their own eyes” (Proverbs 3:7), who do not acknowledge that, as created beings, they are entirely dependent upon our uncreated God’s mercy and grace for their very existence (see The Collect for Proper 14 and The Creed of Saint Athanasius, BCP 864).  From the Song of Mary (also known as the Magnificat), traditionally used as one of the canticles in Evening Prayer, God “has scattered the proud in their conceit” (BCP 119). 

The second half of the Acknowledgement, “you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy” compares the proud who rely and boast in their own strength with those who boast in what God, in God’s mercy, has done.  An example of boasting in God’s mercy is found in Canticle 19, The Song of the Redeemed, of Morning Prayer (BCP 94) – this recounting of God’s mercy leads to worship of God.  This boasting results in cultivating the humble attitude of praise and wonder that such a powerful and wonderful God would be mindful of us (Psalm 8).  Those who recognize their dependence upon God, including their dependence upon God to do God’s will (See The Collect for Proper 14), are the ones whom God neither renounces nor rejects (Psalm 34).

The Petition, “Grant us … to trust in you with all our hearts,” is a request for grace to live into the command given in Proverbs 3:5-6.  “Heart,” here, refers to our entire being.  We confess each week that “we believe” in God using the Nicene Creed (BCP 358); in the Daily Office and the Baptismal Covenant we each confess “I believe” using the Apostles’ Creed (BCP 96, 120, 304).  “To believe” can also be understood as “to trust” (See The Collect for the Fifth Sunday of Easter).  In this Petition for grace to trust God with our whole being, in the context of God’s tender care for those who recognize and profess God’s mercy, we ask God to help us live more fully into our Baptismal Covenant.  This Covenant binds us to our God who is faithful to those who live into the grace God has given.  Further, this grace includes eyes of faith to see Christ’s redeeming work (The Collect for Third Sunday of Easter) and mouths that proclaim what we have seen (The Collect for Proper 6) so that we can boast in God’s mercy.

The Pleading, “through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen,” begins with the One through whom we come to know the Father and who, with the Father, sends the Holy Spirit (John 1:18, John 14:26).  Through Jesus Christ, we are able to know and trust the Father and the Spirit.

In what ways during the pandemic have you been challenged to no longer confide in your own strength, but to trust in God’s mercy?  How have we as a parish been called to put aside our expectations that we can do things in our own strength?  How have we experienced God’s mercy and what might boasting about this experience of God’s mercy sound like?

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts;
for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength,
so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen.
(BCP 233)

© 2021 Donna Hawk-Reinhard, edited by Kate McCormick
The citations from Marion Hatchett are from his Commentary on the American Prayer Book, HarperOne, 1995
Quotations and page references to The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) are from the 1979 standard edition. 
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide

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