There are actually two Collects for Easter Sunday
Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
O God, who for our redemption gave your only begotten Son to die upon the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of death and the devil: Grant us the grace to die daily to sin, that we may live with him in the joy of his resurrection, through the same, Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit now and forever. Amen.
First, let’s consider what both Collects say about God.
“Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life:”
The good news of the gospel is the good news of God’s rescue mission.
Having created the universe to be a realm of perfect relationships, between (1) God and humans, (2) humans and each other, and (3) humans and the rest of creation (see Genesis 1-2), God was not content to let Sin and Death, which infected and affected every layer of the universe (see Genesis 3), have the final word.
No, instead, God puts the universe back together again, chiefly and ultimately through the life, death, and RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God.
The Resurrection, then, is the monument of God’s victory over Sin and Death. It is also, as the first Easter Collect notes, the “gate of everlasting life.”
That is, the Resurrection is not just an afterthought to the gospel — mere proof that the Cross “worked.” It is much more. It is the first and final victory over Death, our ancient foe.
“O God, who for our redemption gave your only begotten Son to die upon the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of death and the devil:”
As the second Easter Collect notes, it was/is through the Resurrection that God delivers us from “the power of death and the devil.”
I love this Collect because it draws my attention to aspects of the atonement which were underemphasized in my own upbringing.
I grew up hearing about the gospel chiefly in financial and/or judicial terms — “penal substitutionary atonement,” as it’s called. Jesus Christ died to pay my debt. He died in my stead, to take my guilt upon himself, so that I might be declared righteous in his stead.
A beautiful exchange. And, in my opinion, a very important and true facet of the gospel!
But, there’s more to the gospel than just penal substitutionary atonement.
This second Easter Collect recalls what are known as “Christus Victor” and “Ransom” theories of the atonement — ways of explaining the gospel that emphasize Christ’s cosmic victory over Sin and Death, in order to liberate us, his people, from our bondage.
A glorious victory. That’s what we celebrate at Easter
Then, let’s consider what both Collects actually pray for.
Allow me to take the editorial liberty of putting the petitions of both Collects together:
(1) “Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit.”
(2) “Grant us the grace to die daily to sin, that we may live with him in the joy of his resurrection.”
Would you look at that! We’ve created a “Collect chiasm,” as it were!
The petitions of both prayers together move from:
- JOY to
- DYING TO SIN to
- DYING TO SIN to
- JOY again.
This Easter, we ask God to give us JOY as we celebrate the Resurrection.
Sure, we live in a world that is still stained by Sin and, often it appears, dominated by Death.
However, on Easter Sunday (and on EVERY Sunday!), we remind ourselves that Sin and Death have lost the battle.
We know how God’s Story ends — with Resurrection and eternal life! So, on that basis, we ask God to give us His joy, even in the midst of our earthly sorrows.
This Easter, we ask God to help us to DIE TO SIN through the power of the Holy Spirit.
It simply will. not. do. to celebrate the Resurrection with our lips, and yet deny the Resurrection with our lives.
We ought not to celebrate our deliverance from bondage to Sin and Death as we demonstrate our captivity to Sin and Death!
In order to experience the liberating results of the Resurrection, we need the Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out — so that we might hate what God hates and love what God loves.
Easter Sunday isn’t just a “feel-good” moment, it’s a life-transforming moment.