The Collect for Sunday November 26
Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for 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.
Restoration. Apparently, that is God’s intention, according to the collect we heard in church yesterday, a prayer included above. It suggests a return to the goodness God spoke into being at creation. Please note: Not just goodness, but very goodness. The book of Genesis reports that as God finished the holy creative work on the sixth day, God noted that it was not simply good. God said it was very good.
What has happened to that very goodness? The prayer says that the peoples of the earth have become divided and enslaved. We’re talking about a loss of community and a loss of freedom.
Division is easy to see, whether you look at the border of Ukraine and Russia, the border of Israel and Gaza, the aisles in the House of Representatives, the aisles of many churches, or the political conversation when families sit around a table for a holiday meal. The outward and visible signs of division can be seen in barbed wire, border walls, and gated communities. We see it in societal systems. We see it in individual relationships.
Enslavement is also a fact of our time, its most egregious expressions found in human trafficking, mass incarceration, crippling poverty and rising authoritarianism. But dehumanizing confinement can be seen in patterns of addiction or refusal to offer forgiveness. (Nelson Mandela said upon release from 27 years in prison that if he didn’t forgive his captors, they still had him in prison.) We see it in the habits of our hearts, where we may feel that we can’t help ourselves from hurting ourselves and others.
Yesterday’s collect says that Jesus can address the loss of community and loss of freedom. How does he do that?
To see how he begins to restore community in the face of division, we eavesdrop on his words to his disciples at the last supper, as recorded in the Gospel of John. As he was preparing to leave them, he stopped calling them servants and began to call them friends. He gave them a new commandment, which was to love one another. That love in action would be the way that outsiders would recognize their discipleship. He brought into being a new community, a movement where dividing walls could come down (see Ephesians 2:14). St. Paul captured that notion when he said that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, a vision that the church has yet to fully realize.
To see how Jesus comes to restore freedom, we turn again to words offered in John’s gospel. Jesus said that everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. He goes on to say that if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:34, 36) Again, St. Paul spoke of this freedom in his letter to the Galatians, when he said that it was for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Newsflash: We’re not there yet. We continue to grapple with division and enslavement on a global and systemic level, and within our own hearts. Sometimes it seems that we’re not making progress at all. But we keep at it.
As we come to the end of a church year, we begin again, with another trip around the sun. We’re presented with more opportunities to participate in the intention of the Holy One to restore community and freedom. With a new year starting (in the church calendar), make a resolution to participate in the holy work of restoration, working for community and freedom. What will that look like in your life this week?