A Meditation on The Collect for The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins,
and give us the liberty of that abundant life
which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(BCP 216)

This Collect, composed for our 1979 BCP by the Rev. Dr. Massey H. Shepherd, Jr., alludes to “Galatians 4:3-5, Romans 8:15, Romans 8:19-21, John 10:10, and Luke 4:16-21” (Hatchett, 172).  Given the diversity within the themes of the Gospel readings for this Sunday (Matthew 5:13-20, Mark 1:29-39, and Luke 5:1-11 for Years A, B, and C respectively), it appears that this Collect may be one of the few Collects for the Season after the Epiphany that do not focus on a common theme found in all three of the Gospel texts.

This Collect is streamlined, having only the required Preamble, Petition, and Pleading sections.

The Preamble, “O God” doesn’t tell us much about the one to whom we are praying.

The Petition, “Set us free, … , from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ.”  The biblical passages that Hatchett listed provide the source for the Petition.  In Galatians 4:3-5 and Romans 8:15, we read that Jesus was born in the fullness of time to free humanity from the spirits of this world that enslaved us and caused fear.  Through the Son of God, we were not only freed from those forces that separate us from the love of God, but also were adopted as children of God. 

In Romans 8:19-21 we read that this systemic sin that is in view in the Galatians passage and the earlier verse in Romans 8, not only prevents us from having abundant life that is referenced in John 10:10, but also all of creation is groaning under the bondage to decay, waiting for the fullness of our liberty in Christ to be realized. 

In Luke 4:16-21, the outward signs of this systemic sin look and feel like poverty, captivity, blindness, and oppression—which kill and destroy both body and soul (see the meditation on The Collect for The Third Sunday after the Epiphany).  The beginnings of the abundant life are freedom from captivity and oppression, the gift of vision, and—as God’s own children—being caught up in and revealing the glory of the God.

The Pleading, “your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen, while formulaic, places on our lips the remembrance that our glorious liberty in Christ and the abundant life that he has made known, is the work of all three persons of our one God.

While life during the pandemic has changed, God continues to offer us abundant life in Christ.  How have we, as a parish, experienced abundant life in Christ in the past?  What new ways of experiencing this abundant life do you see being worked into our parish?

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins,
and give us the liberty of that abundant life
which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

© 2022 Donna R. 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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