Week of the Sunday from July 31 to August 6
Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your grace that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Running the Race
I could train for months for a marathon, but if I work on the wrong muscles, I would not be able to complete the race.
I could run 99.9% of a marathon, but if I stumble and stop before the end, I have not obtained the goal.
I could run 26.2 miles, but if I run the wrong direction, I’ll never cross the finish line.
I could cheat and use a Segway for most of the marathon, but my race would not be true.
And I could hang out in running clothes on race day in order to appear to be a runner, but that would not be praiseworthy.
In order to truly obtain the prize, I have to train the right muscles, run the full distance, go in the right direction, and compete according to the rules of marathons.
To Obtain God’s Promises
This week’s collect is about a race. A race to obtain God’s promises.
But God’s promises are not achieved. They aren’t earned. They aren’t purchased. They can’t be faked, and they can’t be stolen. That’s because they are free.
The race that our merciful God sets before us is fueled only by grace. Grace trains us, grace energizes us, grace supports us, and grace sustains us.
Without grace we stumble, or we go in the wrong direction. Without grace we run in the wrong direction. Without grace we never obtain the promises of God.
But by God’s grace we run. By God’s grace we serve. By God’s grace we do what is true and praiseworthy.
Why do so many Collects sound so similar?
A whole lot of the Collects follow this theme. It can almost feel formulaic. First, we address God. Then we ask for his grace in order to serve him in some way through Jesus Christ. And finally, we praise and honor him.
Why such an emphasis in our Anglican collects on the absolute need for God’s grace?
Because grace is God being close to us. Grace is God’s presence. Grace is God’s relationship with us in Christ. Grace is the whole ballgame…or should I say the whole marathon.
We do need to be constantly reminded that we need the Gospel. The Gospel is our life and our training, the world is our course, heaven is our direction, and his promises are our finish line. Grace is our fuel, our sustenance and our power. And after we finish this race, God himself is our reward.