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.
By now, if you’ve been following the collect reflections, you’ve probably gotten the point—during Advent, we inhabit an ‘in-between’ space. We recall the first coming of Jesus and we anticipate his coming again. We look back—we look ahead.
The collects during Advent, then, help us process the ‘in the meantime.’ The first collect alluded to the armor of God, drawing on the martial language of the Scriptures to encourage us to endure until the day of his coming again. The second collect reminds us that during this in-between time we have the divine Word of God and we are exhorted to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the Bible while we wait.
And now, on the Third Sunday of Advent, we are given this:
Lord Jesus Christ, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries may likewise make ready your way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at your second coming to judge the world, we may be found a people acceptable in your sight; who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, now and forever. Amen.
For some of us, we hear the word prophet and think of someone who tells the future. That’s certainly part of the prophetic role. We could look at Daniel or Micah who articulated a clear vision of future events.
For others, the word prophet comes loaded with images. We think of camel hair clothes, unkempt beards, bizarre behavior, and angry speeches. These aren’t unfair associations, either. Take Ezekiel, who lay on his side for over a year next to a toy model of Jerusalem. Take Elijah, whose rhetoric was so inflammatory he spent most of his days running for his life. Take John, the locust-eater by the Jordan River.
More than the rest of us, prophets live with an acute awareness of the tension between the “what is” and the “what will be.” They see beyond the present moment, and they understand where we are all headed without realizing. We all walk with our heads down, following the tracks; they see the bright light growing brighter, they hear the WOO-WOO of the freight train. They live their lives trapped in the same burning building as the rest of us, but they seem to be the only ones looking for an exit.
No wonder they are a little crazy.
The collect for this week reminds us of the prophet’s purpose. The prophet helps us hear the train whistle, helps us sense the temperature rising. They call us to repentance. They pull us forward out of the rutted present and into a vision for the future beyond the daily concerns that consume us.
But this prayer connects that prophetic role to those who minister and steward the “mysteries” of the body and blood of Jesus. A mystery isn’t something that’s unknowable—it’s something that takes patient practice to perceive. A mystery is the time between total obscurity and full revelation.
We read mystery novels—the action begins with “Whodunnit?” and ends with “Elementary, my dear Watson.” In between, the mystery is the scraps of clues, the hints and whispers. A single fingerprint. A lilt in the voice.
Ministers of these divine mysteries—like the prophets—help us turn our hearts to the hints and whispers of a full revelation to come. They pull us into repentance and toward the second coming by joining our present purposes with the actions of that future final judge.
Ministers—like the prophets—don’t merely help us to see better. They remind us that we are seen. They call us not merely to appraise our own vision, but to assess how we will be found in his sight. They “prepare the way” for us to approach the Table and receive the holy mysteries knowing that in Christ, we are fully known and fully accepted as beloved children of God.
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.