Bishop Menees’ Reflection on the Collect for the Third Sunday in Lent

Thanks to Soundings blog for making Bp. Menees’ notes on the collects available to a wider audience.  Bishop Eric Menees is Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin.

Almighty God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
On Lent One, Fr. Tony Faint at St. Timothy’s, Bishop, began his sermon by quoting step one of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous: “We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable.” Fr. Faint’s point was that we must admit that, without the power of the Holy Spirit, we are powerless over sin in our lives.
The collect for the Third Sunday of Lent makes the same point – that we have no power within ourselves to help ourselves overcome sin in our lives. Of course, this is not a new thought – it dates back to the first century, with St. Paul admitting to God, himself, and the people of the Church in Rome: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15) Admitting that we have no power to help ourselves is absolutely necessary for our salvation. When we live with the illusion that we have the power to help ourselves, then we never need God! So the scriptures teach us that we have no power to help ourselves, and therefore we need to turn to God.
The service of Reconciliation begins with this very admittance:
Penitent
Bless me, for I have sinned.
The Priest says
The Lord be in your heart and upon your lips that you may truly and humbly confess your sins: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Penitent
I confess to Almighty God, to his Church, and to you, that I have sinned by my own fault in thought, word, and deed, in things done and left undone; especially ______.” (BCP pg. 447)
Precisely because we are powerless to help ourselves, we must seek Him who is all powerful – The Lord God Almighty – for our protection and for our forgiveness. Thanks be to God, we are loved beyond our wildest imaginations by Jesus Christ, who willingly suffered and died that the veil may be torn in two and the chasm between God and man may be bridged.
And so we pray to Him for protection – protection from the enemy and the father of all lies, and for protection against our own weakness to see through those lies; lies like, “You don’t need God,” or “God doesn’t make junk, so you are perfect just the way you are.”
 My prayer for you and for me this Third Sunday in Lent is that we will not rely upon ourselves, but upon Jesus Christ – and Him alone – for our salvation, forgiveness, and protection. And to that I say… AMEN
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