This post, in addition to being a part of Rookie Anglican, is part of a series on the Collects of the Christian Year (ACNA), called “Collect Reflections.” If you’re just jumping in, make sure to check out the introductory post, “Announcing Collect Reflections.” All Collect Reflection posts can be found here.
The Fifth Sunday in Lent [Passion Sunday]
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 this 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 forever. Amen.
Our home was built in the late 1950s, just as our city was beginning to sprawl out into suburban development. It’s filled with large oaks that rain acorns down on the street, a thumping reminder of the humble, bygone origins of those trees.
Down the narrow hall, there’s an anachronistic little installation. These days, we see it as a perfect shelf on which to set our laundry detergent, right across from the tiny closet that holds our stacked washer and dryer. But the shelf is too ornate for that. It’s recessed into the wall of the hall and trimmed with white-washed wood. This was a central artery of the home back when it was built, because this was the telephone rack.
It’s difficult to imagine what that must have been like, picking up the receiver, spinning the rotary dial, and then talking there, tethered to a shelf.
Yes. We know a thing or two about “swift and varied changes of this world.” And it isn’t merely the world that pulls the rug out from underneath us with its breakneck pace and supposed progress. The cares of our own lives spill out before us with an alarming fecundity. Why, in just walking down the hall to the telephone rack, I pass a bedroom with bunk beds where two boys snore out their gentle reminder that the times, they are a-changing.
Like the breathless turning of the earth, time’s flow rushes rampantly even when we sit still in its current. We can’t step out of the stream, and so we lose our bearings.
Which is why we need the declaration of this collect, with all its humbling bluntness. The onslaught of our days warps our wills beyond our rule, bends our affections—like an eroded bend of a river around hard stone—toward our best guesses at what will bring us life. Usually, those best guesses have more to do with temporal convenience or comfort.
God alone stands out of time and shapes its bends. God alone can smooth its rapids. And so God alone can tame the wildness in our lives. Only God can fix our course, rudder our hearts from its short-sighted selfishness to everlasting hope—toward a country “where true joys are found.”
Not that it’s going to be pleasant. Like Eustace in Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, our own un-dragoning isn’t apt to feel nice. And chances are we will kick against our Father’s guiding hands.
But if we have the eyes to see it, this is grace. Grace to be wrenched from our own chaos into his rightly ordered command. Grace to stop chasing the enticements of the fleeting moment and to rest in his enduring promises.
Lent schools our desires. It forces us to feel the currents of our world, with all their swift and varied changes. And, if we allow ourselves to look to the horizon, Lent raises us up just enough to glimpse the land of true joys—the country where tombs are empty, where a table has been set, where someone has saved a place for us.
Kolby Kerr is an Anglican priest who serves at Restoration Anglican Church in Richardson, Texas. He’s also the Assistant Director (and regular blog contributor) at LeaderWorks, a nonprofit organization that provides leadership services to help church leaders do their work. Before joining LeaderWorks, Kolby taught high school English for ten years. He and his wife Emily live in Richardson with their two sons, Beckett and Samuel.