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COLLECT FOR THE 19th SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST – PROPER 21 – RCL YEAR CO God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. AMEN
Our Collect is found in the Gallican and Gelasian Sacramentaries. Remarkably, its position has remained secure in the season of Pentecost for centuries. In our Anglican tradition, the collect was firmly anchored to the l1th Sunday after Trinity until our current BCP. With such a grounded history, one would think that it might have been immune to the propensities of generational redaction. Not so! While our present translation is similar to that created by Cranmer 559 years ago, it has been a long journey home! There is much to be, “read, marked, and inwardly digested” here. A continuing theme in our readings for Pentecost has been God’s unbounded mercy and forgiveness. We might pose the question to ourselves as to just what characteristics do we attribute to our God who is essentially indescribable by us? Creator? Omniscient? All Powerful? Judge? The opening Acknowledgment clause turns all of this upside down by saying that God’s “Almighty power” is, “...chiefly in showing mercy and pity.” While some of us might cringe at the prospect of being “pitied,” we can certainly all rejoice in the prospect of receiving, “...the fullness of your (God’s) grace,” so that, “...we may become partakers of your (God’s) heavenly treasure.” If the phrase, “pity and mercy” is still bothersome, Marion Hatchett suggests that, “...sparing and showing compassion,” might be a better translation of the original text. Does that help? Yes, and Massey Shepherd had it right when he wrote in his commentary on this collect, “The greatest power, of God is His sacrificial love!” As we run our own race, in the metaphor that Paul would use often, we can also be guided by the many examples of God’s counsel regarding the dichotomy between how we cherish our possessions in the face of the needs of others. With that with us, let us all keep our minds focused on the “heavenly treasure” as opposed to the “earthly” ones!”
Our initial symbolic reading evokes in considerable detail Jeremiah’s purchase of a piece of property from a financially pressed relative. One might question the wisdom of buying any property at the time of the Babylonian siege, however, Jeremiah’s action asseverates that this land will flourish again. Psalm 91 responds with deep assurance, “Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name.” Our alternative reading from Amos sounds a deep warning, “Alas to those who lie on beds of ivory.. .but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph.” Psalm 146 replies with praise for the Lord, “...who lifts up those who are bowed down.” Paul continues his instructions to Timothy pointing out that, “...the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil,” closing, however, with the advice that the rich, “. . .are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share ... ” Christ’s well known parable finds it’s most powerful words at the close when the “Rich Man,” concerned about the fate of his family, says, “...but if someone goes to them from the dead they will repent.”
JEREMIAH 32: 1-3a, 6-15 - Jeremiah Buys a Field During the Siege
PSALM 91: 1-6, 14-16 - Assurance of God’s Protection, or
AMOS 6: la, 4-7 - Oracles Against Israel
PSALM 146 - Praise for God’s Help
1 TIMOTHY 6: 6-19 - False Teaching and Greed
LUKE 16: 19-31 - The Rich Man and Lazarus
For background information on the Collects, click here.