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Saint David's Anglican Church
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Reflections

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Fourth Sunday after Trinity

                                                                   
July 14, 2019

O God, the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us thy mercy; that, thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal: Grant this, O Heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ's sake our Lord. Amen.

In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Here again is our Collect for today.  There is a rather unsettling - even shocking - request in this prayer.  We pray, “that we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal.”  What’s unsettling & shocking about this prayer is that it suggests we could actually LOSE things which are eternal.

The prayer in this Collect contrasts “things temporal” with “things eternal.”  The “things temporal” are those things which we pass through,  or experience during this brief mortal lifetime.  And what are those things,  but our experiences that we go through in all stages of life:  from childhood ‘ adulthood ‘ mid-life ‘ old age?  Our mortal life is a journey, much like the ancient Hebrews who were led through the wilderness in their journey.  They were eventually led to the edge of the River Jordan, which they had to cross over in order to obtain the Promised Land.  Even so, our life is often like a wilderness.  And is not our coming death like an edge, i.e. we too must (as it were) “cross the river” if we are to enter the Promised Land ourselves.

But what is unsettling about today’s Collect is the thought, which is strongly implied, that after we have passed through “things temporal,” we actually may LOSE “the things eternal.”  In other words, we cannot take for granted a future existence of endless bliss, for at best our hold on it is very fragile./p>

Does’t it seem, as we look back on events in our own lives, that life is like an obstacle course . . . full of things that have gotten in our way and upset our plans for a happy life? For a satisfying life.  Indeed:   Life does not happen as we expect it to happen.   Life does not happen as we’d like it to happen.   Life, we discover all too often, is what happens while we’re making other plans.  And yes, we make our plans, we entertain our ambitions for a good life.  But those darn obstacles keep getting in the way.  And we so much want to overcome those obstacles, if they can be overcome.  Experience teaches us that some-times they can’t be overcome.

To use a baseball analogy, life does not always send us a pitch straight down the middle of the plate where we can hit it.  We get a curve ball instead, we swing & miss & strike out, and return to the dugout defeated by a pitch that proved to be an obstacle to our getting on base.  This is what much of life is about.  We do not expect this or that to happen.  We did not expect a struggle with this or that temptation.  We did not plan on this or that development to occur.  These obstacles are unpleasant surprises that would pull us down if they could.  They always occur as ‘bad timing,’  these obstacles do not fit into or line up with our timing.  

We make our plans, and our plans go awry.  Indeed, in some cases what seems to start well ends badly.  People get in the way; those we esteemed as friends prove themselves to be otherwise.  In short, we are all fragile creatures, vulnerable to loss, subject to devastation; destined (so it seems) to be confronted with obstacles that endanger us.  Or worse, hinder our passing over the River Jordan and thus entry into the Promised Land which the Bible calls heaven.

Anyone, especially anyone over 50, knows how fast time goes by, and we find ourselves all too quickly to be in that class of people called ‘senior citizens’ . . . those nearing the edge of the River Jordan.  And we must beware, as we grow older, of the temptation to be bitter or resentful of those obstacles we have faced in life.  It is possible for us, as we grow older, to fear that in the end we have passed through this mortal life only to fail gaining an entrance into the blessed state prefigured in the O.T. Promised Land.

We thus feel ourselves fragile, wobbly, vulnerable to losing - in the end - this so-called Promised Land of Heaven, or “the things eternal.”  You see, our Collect for today under-stands this vulnerability and gives prayerful expression to it.  We know our weakness, how shaky and weak we really are, with our growing arthritic hands and wobbly knees.  But in the final analysis, today’s sermon is not about us.  The Collect has us direct our prayer to God who (the Collect says) is “the protector of all that trust in [Him],” and “without whom nothing is strong.”

I saw in my reading this week what one writer thinks of this Collect for the 4th Sunday after Trinity.  He says, “This is one of the most famous and hence most frequently memorized Collects from the Prayer Book.  It is a masterpiece of spare, affecting English rhetoric.”  This is well said; however there is more than just rhetoric going on here in the Prayer Book.  For this Collect directs us at last to God our Maker, who from our mother’s arms has loved us and cared for us, and who promises to guide us through the wilderness of life not just to the edge of the River Jordan, but beyond it to the Promised Land and “things eternal.”  

So let us pray this Collect most earnestly that God, our Maker, Father & Redeemer in Christ Jesus, will hold on to us through the obstacle course of life, from childhood to mid-life to old age . . . and bring us by his mercy not just to the edge, but across the River to a better place than this troubled earth.  A place where all will be well, for there we shall see God.   But “the night comes, when no man can work,” as the N.T. says.  

Let us labor in the meanwhile as best we can, while daylight is here, to make this earth a better place, giving aid to others who face their own life obstacles; showing mercy to them as God in Christ has shown mercy to us.  We close with these inspired words of the apostle Paul, which surely helped inspire the writing of today’s Collect:  

2 Cor. 4:16-18

16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Related Links


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The 1928 Book of Common Prayer Daily Offices
Ordo Calendar and The Church Year Occasional Offices
1928 BCP of Fixed Holy/Saints Days Propers for Sundays, Holy Days and Saints Days
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