The BCP

Fourth Sunday after Easter

Author: The Revd Dr Peter Toon

Collect

O Almighty God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men: Grant unto thy people, that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Collect Commentary

This prayer originated in the Gelasian Sacramentary and passed into the Sarum Missal before being translated from Latin into English for the 1549 Prayer Book. Finally, it was revised for the 1662 Prayer Book. As it stands, it is as near a perfect specimen of a Collect form of prayer as one could wish to see.

There is the Address or Invocation - to Almighty God; then there is the Recital of a specific doctrine concerning Godís power in relation to man, achieved grammatically by means of the relative clause; this is followed by the long Petition, beginning with the strong verb, ìGrantÖî, which petition is wholly based upon the foundation of the doctrine already remembered and rehearsed; and in turn the petition is followed by the Aspiration - ìthat soÖ our hearts may surely there be fixedî. The Collect closes with the Pleading in the Name of Jesus Christ the Lord.

The foundation for the petition recalls before God and recites the biblical teaching that he alone, and only he, is able to order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men. These words of the initial relative clause balance perfectly with the two clauses of the actual petition that follows. That is, ìthe unruly willsî corresponds to the love of that which God commands, while ìthe unruly affectionsî corresponds to the desire of that which God promises.

We know from sacred Scripture and the experience of the saints that God the Father brings the wills and emotions/affections of sinful persons into order out of disorder, by the secret and hidden operations of the Holy Ghost. In this way human minds, hearts and wills are transformed by grace, and the change wrought in them is of such a nature that those persons in whom the Holy Ghost has so worked can only say with certainty that they know and feel that a change has taken place. They cannot tell how it occurred for that belongs to the secret operations of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.

The true Christian is one who delights in and loves what God commands. He is also one who seeks to obey Godís holy law, simply because he loves God and wants to do what God declares to be good and true and right. So the petition is ìthat thy people may love the thing which thou commandest.î

But it is also important that the Christian loves God and his law as, simultaneously, he also desires what God promises to his elect people - thus the aspiration. This will be so when his affections are set upon the heavenly realm where Christ rules at the Fatherís right hand and where the society of angels and saints adore and praise Jesus Christ as Lord of lords and King of kings in all his authority and beauty.

The Christian who loves Godís law and desires to be with Christ in heaven will find that, in the varied and many changing circumstances of life, his central focus will be not in this world as such but on Christ Jesus in heaven, the center of all true and lasting joy. And the more he is focused on Christ the more will he be desirous and able to love God and his law and readily and happily obey him. He will rejoice with exceeding great joy as he loves the Lord and does his will, with his eyes of faith looking above where Christ is in all his glory. And with such a godly mind he will be the more useful on earth!

It is by making men loyal to his will, and to the hope of glory which he holds out to them in the Gospel, that God joins them together in the same mind and the same judgment. His precept and promise are the magnetic power which draw them into union one with another, and they are also the cement which holds them there, beginning in this age and being fulfilled in the glorious age to come.

Since there is one High Priest and one Mediator in heaven, Jesus Christ the resurrected Lord, the Prayer is offered to the Father in his Name.

Thus we have here not merely a perfectly formed Prayer but also a perfectly biblical Prayer. All that remains is that we pray it and it is fulfilled in our lives.

 

Epistle James 1. 17-21

EVERY good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

 

Gospel John 16. 5-15

JESUS said unto his disciples, Now I go my way to him that sent me, and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But, because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.