The Collect for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany
Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
In coming days, Monday Matters will offer reflections on the prayers we say in church on Sunday, the collect of the day. We do this based on the conviction that praying shapes our believing, that what we pray forms us. We do this hoping that the prayers we say on Sunday will carry us through the week.
Frederick Buechner on Vocation:
It comes from the Latin vocare, to call, and means the work a person is called to by God. There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of Society, say, or the Super-ego, or Self-Interest…The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
I find much to think about in Buechner’s reflection on vocation. I’ve kicked it around for years, and have always found it helpful. I was struck in this week’s reading of it by the notion that there are all different kinds of voices calling to us.
In my own life, I’ve heard those many voices. They are sometimes extremely noisy. There are often multiple co-existent vocations, some of them in competition, some pulling in opposite directions. Parent. Spouse. Child. Priest. Disciple. Cartoonist. Painter. Employee. Employer. Citizen. Social critic.
How is it that we find out which is the voice of God? There’s a fair amount at stake. We live in a world where too many religious people have done too many horrific things because they believe God told them to do it. In my own spiritual journey, I find those experiences present a real challenge to my faith, sometimes almost enough to make this priest a none. As Buechner points out, the voices of society or super-ego or self-interest beckon. They can speak so loudly that they can drown out what is sometimes the still small voice of the Holy One.
Yesterday in church, the theme in the Collect of the Day (see above), and in readings from scripture had to do with call. It made me think of all the stories in the Bible of call. Some of the greatest heroes of the faith when they were called immediately concluded that the call was a wrong number. Moses wasn’t an eloquent speaker. Isaiah was a man of unclean lips. Jeremiah was too young. Peter was a sinful man. Even Mary, perhaps the most faithful and responsive to God’s call, pondered in her heart and asked how this could be.
So we are asked for the grace to pay attention to the call. We push through competing voices. And according to the collect, if we want to capture that call in a nutshell, if we want a job description, it is to proclaim the good news of God’s salvation. That’s very much like the baptismal promise which asks us to proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ. That means we are all called to proclaim (or in other words, we’re all preachers). And that proclamation will get communicated in what we say, how we say it, and what we do, and how we do it.
Walker Percy described the modern world as waiting for news. Our big and beautiful and broken world needs that good news. You and I may not always be clear about the nature of our call. It may be hard to hear amidst all the other noise.
But whoever we are and whatever we’re up to, we can embrace this call to share good news. How would you express that good news in what you say, and in what you do this week? May God give us grace to share that news. May we find in the process the intersection of our own deep gladness and the world’s great hunger.