Prayer for the week

The collect and its explanation

Collect

3rd Sunday before Lent – Sunday 17th February

Almighty God,
who alone can bring order
to the unruly wills and passions of sinful humanity:
give your people grace
so to love what you command
and to desire what you promise,
that, among the many changes of this world,
our hearts may surely there be fixed
where true joys are to be found;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Readings

Jeremiah 17: 5 – 10; Psalm 1; 1 Corinthians 15: 12 – 20; Luke 6: 17 – 26

Explanation

This is a collect that likes juxtapositions – unruly vs fixed; sinful humanity vs true joys. Seen objectively, stability, order and structure are good, and fixed purpose, constancy and faithfulness are all very much needed in society and in the church. But is perfection an unchanging resting place? We are told that God wishes “to make all things new” – this sounds dynamic and fluid and about growth.

Let’s look at how God brings about this order. Does he do it by crushing us or condemning us? No, he grants us “grace”.

By assuring us of his unmerited favour toward us — in all times and in all places — God gradually transfigures those “wills and affections” until we come to love what God commands and to desire what God has promised us! In other words, instead of seeing the commandments as impossible standards of behaviour, an awareness of the love and mercy and the true nature of God finally makes it possible for us to love what God loves and to desire what he wants for us.

As that begins to happen, we find ourselves increasingly untroubled by the confusing and complex times in which we live, both in the world and in the church. In fact, our “hearts” more and more find their rest in God.