Monday Matters (July 31, 2023)


The Collect read in church on July 30

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; 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.

Life is Short

Life is short and we do not have too much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us. So be swift to love. Make haste to be kind. And the blessing of God be with you.

I had the privilege of introducing this blessing to a congregation where I was serving. They thought I was brilliant. It became Jay’s blessing, despite how many times I told them that it had been used in many churches, and that the prayer apparently was originally crafted in the 19th century by a Swiss philosopher, poet and critic named Henri Frederic Amiel. None of that seemed convincing, and I’ve had worse things happen in church than getting credit for something I didn’t do. Regardless of source, I have been struck with how this prayer resonates with people. I have wondered why it is so engaging.

It may be the directness of its start. The older we get, the more we recognize the fleeting aspect of life. That’s hardly news, as the psalmist notes that even those who stand erect are but a puff of wind (39:5), or that our days are like a passing shadow (144:4). Accordingly, we recognize the wisdom of the collect heard yesterday in church (see above) which offers prayer that we may pass through things temporal without losing sight of things that are eternal.

Think with me about the things that are temporal. They are fleeting. Early in my ministry, in the cocky snarkiness that can mark those who have been recently ordained, I made a slightly derisive comment about someone who was only serving in an interim capacity in a church, bless their heart. The wise person who heard the comment responded: “Jay, we’re all interim.” I’ve not forgotten that. It’s useful to keep that temporal aspect in mind. It can help us through rough passages. “This too shall pass.” It can also help with some immunity to hubris. It can prevent us from giving our hearts to that which will not ultimately satisfy our hearts.

It does not mean we focus only on pie in the sky and forget about the ministry we’re given to do right now. C.S.Lewis put it this way: “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next.” He said: “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”

Think with me about the things that are eternal. In St. Paul’s famous hymn in I Corinthians 13, he concludes by saying that in the end, faith, hope and love will abide but the greatest of these is love. In some respects, faith and hope are by definition temporal. There will come a time when we no longer walk by faith, but by sight. Hope anticipates something that will come, with the implication that there will be a time when hope will not be necessary. But love does not end. Someone once posed this question about heaven: “Will everyone I love be there?” A wise person responded: “Even better. You will love everyone who is there.”

Think this week about how you might focus on the eternal. It matters. More from C.S.Lewis: “It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this one.” Maybe that kind of eternal focus will come with a prayer for vision, maybe a repetition of this week’s collect. Maybe it will come with a prayerful act of love, unconditionally offered, expecting nothing in return. Life is indeed short, but whatever time we have is filled with opportunity to be swift to love, and to make haste to be kind. Those opportunities when met have lasting value.

-Jay Sidebotham

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