The BCP

Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

Author: The Revd Dr Peter Toon

Collect

LORD, we pray thee that thy grace may always prevent and follow us, and make us continually to be given to all good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Collect Commentary

Here we address the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ as the LORD, in Hebrew YHWH, the revealed Name of God given to Moses at the burning bush in the wilderness (Exodus 3). He is ìI AM WHO I AMî and ìI AM WHO I SHALL BEî and ìI AM & SHALL BE WHO I WASî. He is the utterly faithful One from generation to generation and from age to age. And his Son, the One Mediator between God and Man, who also shares the name of ìLORDî is ìthe same yesterday, today and for everî (Hebrews 13:8).

To this eternally existing, infinite and ineffable God, who came to us in Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of the almighty Father, we are most highly privileged to be able to bring our petitions and to offer our praise and thanksgiving.

Here we use a verb ìPreventî whose meaning in this context is the old one ñ to anticipate, to forestall, to be beforehand with. And we make two petitions which are connected to each other. First of all, we ask that the grace (the personal presence and unmerited mercy) of God (that is as the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete, present in the world as the Spirit of Christ) may always both go before us and come behind us, so that we are always surrounded on all sides by the divine omnipresence and infinite care. In the second place, being thus placed within the gracious favour of God, we ask that we shall continually respond in faith and faithfulness to be and do that which is pleasing in his sight -- loving God with all our being & loving our neighbour as ourselves.

There is great strength in the word ìalwaysî. We need Godís personal presence and assistance not sometimes, not even often; but, rather, always. We may wish to compare this Collect for Trinity XVII with the Fourth Collect at the end of the Order for Holy Communion where we pray, ìPrevent us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favourÖî That is, we ask God, as it were, to bring up the rear as his Church moves through space and time. The same Collect also asks, ìFurther us with thy continual helpî. Here, we ask God to surround us and to go before us with his Presence.

Let us be clear that the LORD, the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity of the Father, together with the Son and the Holy Ghost, is wholly desirous of being with his children in a complete and satisfying way for their salvation and their general good. His promises of his presence and his help are many. What he looks for in us is faith and faithfulness so that we are truly, consciously and continually his people and he is known by us always as our covenant God.

The Epistle reminds us of the Christian vocation which always includes maintaining the unity of the church. The Gospel proclaims the virtue of humility before God and amongst men.

 

Epistle Ephesians 4.1-6

I THEREFORE the prisoner of the Lord beseech you, that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

 

Gospel S. Luke 14.1-11

IT came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath-day, that they watched him. And behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy. And Jesus answering spake unto the Lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath-day? And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go; and answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass, or an ox, fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath-day? And they could not answer him again to these things. And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms, saying unto them, When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; and he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.