Bishop Eric Menees’ reflection on the Collect for the Second Sunday in Lent

A fantastic reflection by Bishop Eric Menees of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin on the Collect for the Second Sunday in Lent.   Thanks to the Soundings blog for making these available to a wider audience!

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from thy ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of thy Word, Jesus Christ thy Son; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
This beautiful collect for the Second Sunday in Lent addresses many of the realities that we live with daily, whether or not we acknowledge them.
First, the collect is addressed to God whose chief characteristic is MERCY. This is not mercy simply for others – it is mercy for me and for you! Christianity stands apart from all other religions because of God’s willingness to suffer for His creation. Mercy is defined by Miriam Webster’s Dictionary as: “compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power.” Our God is a God of mercy and compassion, because not only has He chosen not to give us the punishment we deserve, but he has also chosen to have compassion on – that is, to suffer with – us. In taking on human form and substance, and then suffering the wrath of God on our behalf – what theologians refer to as Substitutional Atonement – God has demonstrated His mercy. Awesome! God’s mercy is also shown in his decision to adopt us as His sons and daughters. As the prologue to the Gospel of John so beautifully states it: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)
Second, this collect petitions God to extend his Grace to all who have gone astray from His ways. That petition is for each and every one of us as the descendants of Adam.  Isaiah acknowledges this fact: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6) Isaiah prophesied to a stiff necked people, and we have to count ourselves among them. The acknowledgement that we have gone astray is absolutely essential to enjoying God’s mercy. We tend live with the illusion that we are perfect just the way we are – that we set the rules, and as long as we are not actively hurting another person, we are doing just fine. That may be true based on man’s law, but not on God’s law. Jesus set the bar with the Great Commandment, and not a one of us has been able to consistently follow that law – Lord have Mercy!
Finally, this collect asks God to direct us back to Him and help us to hold fast to the truth of His unchangeable Word – Jesus Christ. We need the help of the Holy Spirit to seek after, learn from, and cling to Jesus. This Season of Lent, we have an opportunity to “…embrace and hold fast to the unchangeable truth…” of Jesus Christ our Lord through scripture reading, prayer, worship, fasting, and self-denial. I invite you to join me in saying this prayer – thanking God for his Mercy and asking His assistance in repenting and returning to the Lord!
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