This post, in addition to being a part of Rookie Anglican, is part of a series on the Collects of the Christian Year (ACNA), called “Collect Reflections.” If you’re just jumping in, make sure to check out the introductory post, “Announcing Collect Reflections.” All Collect Reflection posts can be found here.
The Second Sunday of Epiphany
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, worshiped, 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 forever. Amen.
Who is God? The Father of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World
If you’ve been reading this series of Collect Reflections, you’ll recognize that this Collect follows the “standard” Collect format:
- We address God, focusing on an attribute and/or action of His.
- We make a request, based on God’s attribute and/or action.
- We state the basis upon which this request is being made: Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God.
So, what attribute and/or action of God does this Collect focus on? That God is the Father of Jesus Christ, who is the light of the world.
This sounds similar to the Collect for the First Sunday of Christmas, which reads:
Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Why the repetition of this “light” theme? Because it’s particularly appropriate to the season of Epiphany, which commemorates the revelation/manifestation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles – to the nations of the world.
During Epiphanytide, we celebrate Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 49:5-6 (emphasis added below):
5 And now the Lord says,
who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him,
and that Israel might be gathered to him,
for I am honored in the sight of the Lord,
and my God has become my strength—
6 he says,
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
God created the entire world and, through Jesus Christ, he is going to redeem the entire world back to himself. That is why his mission of redemption extends from and through the nation of Israel to include the Gentile nations.
How does this take place today? Through the Church.
What are We Praying For? For the Church to Bring Light to a Dark World
I know, I know. So often, the Church doesn’t seem like a vehicle for Christ’s light. Instead, it often appears to be a breeding ground for various forms of darkness.
And yet, as Christians, we cling to the hope that Christ uses his, albeit imperfect, Church to accomplish his mission throughout the world. Thankfully, the Church’s failures don’t nullify her true nature, as Christ’s body and bride.
Church = Christians + Word + Sacraments
By the way, in case you’re wondering where I’m getting this Church stuff from the Collect, it’s from the important phrase “Word and Sacraments.”
It’s a good practice to start hearing this phrase as a synonym for the word “Church.” Here’s a helpful habit: when you hear “Church,” think “Word and Sacraments,” and vice versa. For, if you’d like to locate where the Church is present in the world, you should look for a group of people in which the Word of God is preached and the Sacraments are administered.
[UPDATE/EDIT: Special thanks to Denise, a careful reader who pointed out that “Church” and “Word and Sacrament” are not technically synonyms. The Church, per Article 19 below, is a congregation in which the Word is preached and the Sacraments are administered. Great point, Denise! I should have worded this more carefully.]
Don’t just take my word for it, either. Consider the first part of Article 19 of the 39 Articles of Religion, which reads:
The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.
Painting in HUGE brushstrokes, it could be argued that Protestants have clung to the Word preached, and Roman Catholics (& Orthodox churches) to the Sacraments administered. Anglicans, and all churches, ought to try to hold both together! No one wants just half a church!
The Church’s Global Mission
The Collect prays that we, being illumined by the Word and the Sacraments, would “shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth.”
Let’s face it, we live in a world that desperately needs to know, worship, and obey Jesus.
If the Word of God is being preached in the Church, and if the Sacraments are being administered in the Church, then the Church cannot remain an inwardly-focused community.
Instead, the Church turns outward to the world – the world which God made and which God desperately loves. The Church loves and serves the world, and it invites the world to come and see Jesus – to come and see and know and worship and obey its Creator and Redeemer.
That’s the Church’s global mission. To accomplish this mission, we need God’s constant help and provision. Otherwise, we’ll remain self-centered and miss out on the God-centered, other-centered mission to which Christ summons us.
So, join me in praying this week’s Collect. And keep your eyes open for opportunities to shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory in how you treat others this week!