The Collect for Proper 8:  The Sunday closest to June 29

Almighty God,
you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:
Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching,
that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP 230)

According to Marion Hatchett, this Collect, formerly used for the feast day of Saint Simon and Saint Jude (celebrated on October 28), was written for the 1549 Book of Common Prayer.  The Collect uses Ephesians 2:20-22 and 4:3 as its theological foundation.  Those responsible for organizing the Collects for our present Book of Common Prayer appointed this Collect to the Sunday closest to the feast day of two other apostles, Saint Peter and Saint Paul (celebrated on June 29) (Hatchett, 188). 

The Preamble, “Almighty God,” invites us to consider what mighty act of redemption and restoration is in view in the Petition and the Aspiration.

The Acknowledgement, “you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone,” is a quotation from Ephesians 2:20.  To unpack this statement, starting at the end of the Acknowledgement and working backwards is helpful. 

In Matthew 21, Jesus refers to himself as the fulfillment of Psalm 118:22-23—that he is the cornerstone, the first stone put into place in new construction.  All other stones are set relative to this first stone. 

In Matthew 16:13-19, when the disciple Simon son of Jonah declares that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God, Jesus replies that the content of Simon’s declaration is a gift from God the Father.  Jesus renames him “Peter” (which in Greek means “rock”) and states that upon this rock he will build his church.  Whether we understand Peter to be “this rock” or the content of Peter’s declaration to be “this rock,” is immaterial:  Peter and the other apostles oriented their lives, ministry, and teachings from their experience of Jesus’ life, teachings, death, resurrection, and ascension.  The Church, as an institution, is solid because the foundation upon which it is set and from which it takes its orientation is Jesus.

The Petition, “Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching,” asks God to complete in us what we promise in our baptism:  to “continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship” (BCP 304).  Their teachings are contained in what we call the New Testament.  The Old Testament provides the background and context for the New Testament.  How we read the Old Testament is shaped by the Church’s experience of God through Jesus, as seen in Jesus’ own use of Psalm 118:22-23.  Through our attention to the teachings of the apostles, God is shaping our individual, parish, diocesan, and world-wide lives into the building materials of the Church and joining us all together.

The Aspiration, “that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you,” focuses our attention on why we ask for unity.  This unity is what happens when we, as Church, are caught up in God’s mighty act of redemption and re-creation in such a way that we, as living stones, are built up together into not just any community organization, but a holy temple to God (Ephesians 2:21-22 and 1 Peter 2:5).  Whether gathered together in a physical building or through the internet, our goal as Church is to be part of the spiritual building that is a dwelling place for God.  This is a mighty act of redemption, that all who once were strangers become members of God’s household (see also the Collect for Proper 6).

The Pleading, “through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen,” is a pleading for the Father to complete this work that Jesus began in his earthly life and now continues through us by the work of the Holy Spirit.  The Church, as the temple acceptable to God, is where and how we dwell with the Holy Trinity and where and how the Holy Trinity dwells within and empowers us.

How are we, as a parish, being joined together in unity of spirit? 

Since last year, what “rough edges” have been chipped away from us as a parish?  What parts of our life together have been “polished” over this past year, bringing us more in line with Christ, the cornerstone of the Church?

Almighty God,
you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:
Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching,
that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP 230)

© 2022 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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