The Collect read in church on June 25
O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
These days, Monday Matters offers 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.
The architecture of your life
Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount with a parable, which has been turned into a Sunday School ditty you may know. (See Matthew 7:24-27) It’s about a wise person building a house on rock, set in contrast to a foolish person building a house on sand. (It’s totally irrelevant that I’m writing from a North Carolina barrier island.)
Jesus invites disciples to think about how they are building a life. What is the foundation?
How would you answer that question about your own life? On what foundation are you building? How is construction going? What does the architecture look like? How’s the supply chain? What helps you make progress? What gets in the way?
There are a variety of foundations on which we can build. Some people build lives on the foundations of their own skill or proficiency, their education, title, income, class or zip code. God may have little to do with it.
Others can have a theological foundation which suggests what kind of God they believe in. It can be a God to be feared. I refer to Gary Larson, favorite theologian and snarky cartoonist. In one cartoon, God with long white beard sits at computer. On the screen, a clueless pedestrian walks down the street. A grand piano plummets toward the sidewalk, about to crush aforementioned pedestrian. God is at the keyboard about to press the “Smite” button. If that notion of a judgmental, fearsome God is the foundation, that can lead to a life structured on fear, judgment, division, exclusion.
The collect we heard in church yesterday (see above) invites us to build on a different kind of foundation, the sure foundation of God’s loving-kindness. It suggests a life based on grace, a life built on the premise that God regards us and relates to us with loving-kindness.
What do you make of that word: loving-kindness? The kindness part indicates the way God’s love is shown. It speaks to God’s forbearance, a holy willingness to forgive, to give us a break. It speaks to God’s awareness of who we are, our strengths and weaknesses, joys and sorrows. It speaks of divine grace in action, the amazing grace that the fundamental, foundational fact about us is that we are accepted.
Speaking of foundations, in his book Shaking of the Foundations, Paul Tillich spoke of this divine loving-kindness in terms of grace. Noting challenges we face, he said:
Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: “You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted.
Tillich has crafted a vision of God’s loving-kindness. If we build on that foundation, the architecture of our lives will reflect that foundation. Our lives will be a holy structure, even if not perfect, shaped by the foundation on which we are built.
As we consider that God regards us with loving-kindness, accepting us as Tillich described, we then are called to build on that, thinking about how we relate to people around us with loving-kindness. It means meeting them with gentleness. It means extending forgiveness, giving other people a break. It means asking: How can I help you today? It means listening before speaking. It means honoring the other person, finding out what might be best for them. It means showing grace as it has been shown to us. It means accepting others as we have been accepted.
In my time in church, I have noted that often church people can be really unkind. Downright mean. I am struck with the way that religious folks from Eastern traditions focus on loving-kindness. Case in point, the Dalai Lama who said: My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.
We could learn from that.
How might you practice that simple religion this week. If you need help, pray yesterday’s collect as it notes that God is there to help and govern us in this particular construction project.