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 Second to last Sunday of Epiphany: World Mission Sunday
Almighty God, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, you revealed the way of eternal life to every race and nation: Pour out this gift anew, that by the preaching of the Gospel your salvation may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
From Epiphany to Pentecost before Lent
We begin the season of Epiphany by praying that God would lead us to him just as he led the Magi through the star: “Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face.”
Matthew tells us that when the star the Magi were following stopped where Christ was “they were overwhelmed with joy.” Christ’s presence was to them a gift for which joy was the immediate response. Thus, when we begin Epiphany praying that God would lead us into his presence to see his glory face to face, our prayer is that we would be, like the Magi, overwhelmed with joy.
This week, just before we make the turn from this season of joy and light into the penitential, necessary darkness of Lent, our prayer is one that looks forward to another overwhelming gift, the gift of the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost.
In the Epiphany, the Gentile Magi are overwhelmed with joy upon the fulfillment of their hope just as Isaiah predicted. This moment foreshadows the coming abolition of the division between Jew and Gentile. But at Pentecost, there is no subtlety. The Spirit is poured out on the people in such glorious display that they are accused of being drunk on new wine.
It is hard not to hear the echo of the Magi: ”They were overwhelmed with joy.” Indeed, I know of no truer description of the pouring out of the Gift, than overwhelming joy — the type of joy that makes people around us wonder if we are drunk on new wine.
And so, here at the end of Epiphany, we look forward to Pentecost. We pray, “Pour out this gift anew…” Overwhelm us with the joy of the new wine of the Holy Spirit.
A Spirit-Filled Mission of Unity
The Collect for this week ends: “through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.”
When we pray that God would pour out the gift of the Holy Spirit anew, it is this eternal unity of the Holy Spirit we are seeking, for that unity is the overwhelming joy by which God’s salvation may reach the ends of the earth.
At Pentecost, all those gathered were filled with the Holy Spirit, and the divisions of those gathered in Jerusalem “from every nation under heaven” were undone by the unity of the Spirit. The Spirit descended there, and their divisions ceased such that “each one was hearing them speak in his own language.”
And so, here at the end of Epiphany, the season in which we remember that God’s light shined upon the world, we pray that this same gift of unity would be given to us. We ask that the world would see and know the unity of the Holy Spirit in us and in seeing that unity, would be overwhelmed with joy by the presence of God.
“Pour out this gift anew, that by the preaching of the Gospel your salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
Pour out this gift anew, oh Unifying Spirit. Give us words to speak that can be heard and understood. Pour on us the Spirit that enables us to say what needs to be said in ways that it can be heard.
Overwhelm us with such joy, such unity with You and with your holy family, that our neighbors suspect that we are filled with new wine.
Britt Norvell (@bnorvell3) is a Texan sojourning in Nashville, TN with his wife, Jen, and their two kids, Josephine and Ezra. They are members of St. Mary of Bethany Parish. He is a graduate of Texas A&M University and Lipscomb University’s Hazelip Graduate School of Theology.