Monday Matters (October 23, 2023)


The Collect read in church on October 22

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; 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.


No, this is not a word jumble. These two words, preserve and persevere, form the heart of the collect we heard yesterday in church (see above).

Perseverance is an attribute called for in the journey of faith. In the baptismal covenant, we promise to persevere in resisting evil, which includes repentance whenever (not if ever) we mess up. The collect we heard in church yesterday calls us to persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of God’s name.

As we pray for perseverance, we ask for God’s help, suggesting synergy between God’s grace and our grateful response. If perseverance represents our call, we ask God to preserve the works of God’s mercy. Our call to steadfast faith is supported by God’s steadfast commitment to us, with grace that precedes, follows and meets us where we are.

Implicit in the prayer is the idea that there may be threats to the preservation of God’s mercy. Those can come from within us, the refusal to believe that grace is what matters, that grace is sufficient. In the Ash Wednesday liturgy, we often include this warning from St. Paul: Do not accept the grace of God in vain. That reading makes me think about how I do that, day in and day out.

Threats can come from the church’s refusal to embrace grace and to set up all kinds of litmus tests, or to conduct ourselves in ways that would be unrecognizable to Jesus. (Gandhi said he’d be a Christian if he had never met one.) Threats can come from the church’s failure to live into the love of God and neighbor.

Threats can come from outside the church, in a culture that makes us think we are never quite good enough, that we have to prove our worth, or that worth is determined by being more worthy than someone else.

Also implicit in yesterday’s collect is the idea that it might be hard for us to persevere. The church’s recent encounter with COVID tested ability to persevere. It all made many folks, clergy and lay, want to throw in the towel. I’m wondering this Monday morning where you are sensing a challenge to perseverance.

We should not be surprised if perseverance surfaces as challenge. Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane was a struggle for perseverance. I love him for it. Paul spoke of the need to press on toward the goal of the high calling of Jesus Christ.

One of my favorite stories about Teresa of Avila comes from her travels as missionary. On one trip, the wheel fell off her cart and she ended up sitting in a mud-puddle by the side of the road. She reportedly shook her fist at heaven and said: God, if this is how you treat your friends, it’s no wonder you have so few of them.

Martin Luther King spoke of a moment he was ready to give up, when he and his family faced repeated death threats. “I was ready to give up… In this state of exhaustion, when my courage had all but gone, I decided to take my problem to God. With my head in my hands, I bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud…. At that moment I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced Him before. It seemed as though I could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice saying ‘Stand up for Righteousness, stand up for truth; and God will be at your side forever.’ Almost at once my fears began to go. My uncertainty disappeared and I was ready to face anything.”

Dr. King persevered by tapping into God’s promise of presence, God’s steadfast commitment to preserve. We can tap into that same resource as well. Among other places, we discover perseverance through the life of the community, sharing with honesty the challenge of the journey of faith. The eucharist is offered to give us strength and courage as we face the world with gladness and singleness of heart. We are not alone in this journey.

Babe Ruth had this to say about perseverance: Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.

So even when we strike out, we can anticipate a home run. Let’s swing for the fences, spiritually speaking.

-Jay Sidebotham

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