A Collect for GraceLord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The gift of today
I’m not sure I’ve ever written one of these messages on February 29, but it gives opportunity to reflect on the gift and challenge of an extra day. What will we do with the only February 29, 2016 we’ll ever be given? Note that it falls in the season of Lent, a season for self-examination. With that in mind, what would it mean to use this bonus day for spiritual audit, a chance to look at what we’re doing and being in light of what we’re called to do and be?
I don’t know about you, but the Lenten call to self-examination can sound like a downer, an invitation to be hard on myself, to think solely about what I’ve done that I ought not to have done, what I’ve left undone that I ought to have done. There’s plenty of material there for sure. But in the same way that original blessing precedes original sin, maybe healthy and holy self-examination starts with an attitude of gratitude, remembering the ways blessings have come.
In the time of quiet that gets my day going, I try to name, often enumerate things for which I am thankful. Some days the expressions of gratitude are cosmic in scope. Some days they are mundane. Some days they come easy. On others, it can take practice, even work. It can call for special intention, even willfulness.
Then based on those daily reminders of grace, it’s possible to look at the day ahead with a focus on what I might want to become, just for that day. It’s not about the to-do list as much as it is about a sense of vocation. Can I go through the day remembering blessings? Can I go through the day with greater focus on how to be of service, and less focus on how I am going to be served? Can I go through the day with a sense of vision and embrace of goal?
And from those daily reminders of grace, it’s possible to face challenges that might come. And come they will. One mentor puts it this way: Suffering is the promise that life always keeps. The prayer above, A Collect for Grace (often said in the Service of Morning Prayer), addresses the prospect that challenge will be part of the daily narrative, as sure as the sun rises. What will it take to navigate those challenges? And what obstacles do I put in the way?
That brings me to the prayer printed below. I first ran across this prayer, early in my ministry, when I was invited to officiate at an ecumenical service in a nursing home. Our sanctuary was far from fancy. Fluorescent lights in a small activity room. But it was a holy place. The rather small congregation included saints who walked into the chapel without assistance, others who came with walkers or canes, those who came in wheelchairs, those lying on gurneys. Some congregants actively participated. Some were taken to another place by deep dementia. Some slept. I was unable to tell how much of my stirring homily was sinking in. But as able, we always concluded by offering the prayer you find below.
This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.
On this February 29, I invite you to take the leap of offering this prayer for yourself, giving thanks for the gift of this day, for the gift of all the days that follow. May you be blessed with the spirit of Jesus on this bonus day, and in all the days that follow.
So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.
This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.
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