August 11, 2019

The Eighth Sunday after Trinity:

The Collect for Trinity 8 is beautiful, thought-provoking, and a fit prayer for all times:

O God,
whose never-failing providence
ordereth all things both in heaven and earth:
We humbly beseech thee
to put away from us all hurtful things,
and to give us those things which be profitable for us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Contemplating the Collect

It’s amazing how much is packed into this brief prayer. I love how it opens by directing our minds to who our God is. He’s the one in charge of everything – in heaven and on earth. He’s the one who never fails. It’s his providence, his loving care, that gives order to the universe, even when we struggle to recognize it. It is to this loving, all-powerful God that we address our petition.

And the petition is a simple one. It is so simple that it could almost be a child’s prayer, though it is appropriate for every believer. We simply ask that God give to us what is good, and put away from us what is not good. With these words, we appeal to him as the good Father. We’re reminded of the words of Christ saying that even earthly fathers give good gifts to their children – but our Father in heaven is beyond earthly comparison (Matthew 7:7-12). And we remember the epistle of James telling us that “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (1:17).

But even in this simple petition, we may hit a snag. If we say the words earnestly, we may find ourselves realizing that we do not necessarily want God to “put away from us all hurtful things.” Do you know what I mean? There are things that creep into our lives that do not belong there, habits that have become comfortable, guilty pleasures that trouble our consciences. But though we try to rationalize keeping these destructive things in our lives, God sees them for what they are: hurtful. So there’s a huge challenge for us in this simple prayer: Will we trust the goodness of our father? Will we truly invite him into our lives, to make changes there?

An unexpected renovation

C.S. Lewis offered a powerful analogy on this point in his book Mere Christianity. He wrote:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself .”

Lewis was a master at analogy. And he was exactly right. We readily understand the trauma that transformation can entail. But his point is this: the end-result more than makes up for the pain of the process.

Revisiting the prayer

It’s appropriate that the Introit for Trinity 8 is taken from Psalm 48, words that point us back to the fact that our Lord is loving, that he can be trusted with all things, great and small:

We have waited, O God, for thy loving kindness in the midst of thy temple;
according to thy name, O God, so is thy praise unto the world’s end:
Thy right hand is full of righteousness.
Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised:
In the city of our God, even upon his holy hill.
(Introit for Trinity 8, Psalm 48: 8,9,1)

Pray again, with me, the collect for Trinity 8, remembering that our Father is good, and inviting him to renovate our lives, with the utmost sincerity:

O God,
whose never-failing providence
ordereth all things both in heaven and earth:
We humbly beseech thee
to put away from us all hurtful things,
and to give us those things which be profitable for us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


 

August 11, 2019
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