Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Collect for the 5th Sunday of Lent, BCP p. 219)
Dear friends in Christ,
This week’s Collect is one of my favorites because it names a deep truth about our lives. In the prayer, we claim ourselves as “sinners,” who struggle with disordered thinking, acting, being. Much like St. Paul says in Romans 7:15 “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”
It seems to be a common human thing to try to will ourselves, to shape ourselves and our lives in ways that give us a sense of worth, meaning and purpose–all good, right? But the reality is that we fail regularly to do the things we have set out to do in good faith. Small things like more exercise, or a healthier diet, more regular Bible study or prayer practices; and big things like cultivating more loving relationships with difficult relatives, or making a huge difference in climate change efforts, or adjusting our investments to reflect our values. I can completely relate to St. Paul “...for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.”
The Collect tells us right up front that this sense of misunderstanding about the effectiveness of our will is accurate! We are to know that God alone (not us) has the power to “bring into order our unruly wills and affections”. God’s grace poured out on us is the thing that can re-order and clarify our messy desires, our often confused thinking about what is truly worthwhile. We pray for God to show us where “true joys” are to be found; to re-shape us with LOVE. Love for God, love for our neighbor. So that in the midst of our very human lives, filled with “swift and varied changes” we know this LOVE, this GRACE, and its power to renew, reform, and change us. It is a relief to me to know that God’s power is working in me, and that my will can be laid down, as I pray for God’s will to work in me.
The image of the solo paddle boarder in the photo reminds me of how easy it is to feel like we are on our own, making our own way, powered by our own energy and knowledge, choosing our own direction. The collect invites us to consider that God’s hand, God’s love and mercy and grace will guide us to the place of true joy when we open our hearts to receive it.
Your sister on the journey,