Sunday, November 22, 2015

Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all
things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of
lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided
and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together
under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer has a different prayer, called a “collect” to be said at the beginning of worship for each Sunday of the church year. Above is our collect for today, which with other liturgical churches of the Western tradition, we observe as the Feast of Christ the King. The observance was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as a response to growing nationalism and secularism after World War I, in particular the rise of fascism in Italy under Benito Mussolini. 

The construct of a collect always get my attention. Not all by any means, but the classic, usual form is three parts: an address to God that usually is a theological assertion of a characteristic of God, a single petition praying God to take a particular action, and a closing in the Name of the Trinity. This is such a collect.

A lifelong Episcopalian, my observation in liturgical worship is that certain elements are done somewhat by rote and without being noticed by the people except that some will notice if they are omitted. This includes the collect for/of the day, which simply gets said as part of the opening rite as the liturgy passes on to the next step. Mindful of this, and resisting rote in worship simply because it’s pretty much the same Sunday to Sunday, I have taken to paying attention to the collect and often making a point of it in such as adult Sunday School class. We may take notice of the theological assertion and have a short discussion about whether we agree with what it says about God. And/or we may look at the petition and wonder what we believe, expect or hope about God’s response. In the first place, lex orandi lex credendi, our theology is found in what we do and say and sing and pray when we gather for worship, and so the collect is a manifestation of our Anglican theology: this is what we believe about God and about what God can and will do.

America is today, and is often described as a multicultural society. We have here, and it is our national tradition to expect and accept that not everyone is like us, our neighbors are different, including different backgrounds, origins, heritages, religions, beliefs, observances, celebrations, practices, foods, holidays. There is no place in America for intolerance, except perhaps intolerance of people who insist that others must think and believe as they do. It’s okay to believe that others are wrong, but it’s unAmerican, not okay to insist by law or force. I don’t want to wander off my track, but it seems to me that, as well as coming out of oppression, terrorism says that you must believe and do as I believe and do, or I will kill you and yours to scare and force you into compliance. That’s probably only true to an extent, as terrorism seems to degrade civilization into anarchy with no clear objective.

Anyway, I’m pondering the collect, both what we assert that God wants, and what we ask God to grant. I’m not sure that God is displeased with our multicultural society and wants us all to be the same, Christians. I’m not certain of that anymore than I’m certain that it was God who wanted the wandering people of Israel to slaughter all living things as they crossed the river into the promised land and conquered each city. I think that was the Israelites’ perception of what God wanted as their victory, but I’m not sure it was God’s will. I’m a bit uneasy about this collect as well, because I believe that God likes what America ideally could be: a nation of freedom and peace for all peoples and an example to the world. We are, as another collect says, multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. I believe God loves us just as we are, the way we are, or at least the way we mean to be, which is diverse and multicultural. I don’t believe God’s will is that we all must be the same, μὴ γένοιτο. I certainly don’t believe God wants you to be like me, or, μὴ γένοιτο, me to be like you.


But I’ll say the collect this morning. It's lovely words, in good taste, and prescribed for today. Nobody will notice what it says anyway.

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