Collect Reflections: The Third Sunday of Epiphany
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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 season of Epiphany is directed outward; it’s about the light that shines forth into the whole world. It’s about the proclamation of a new kingdom, a new birth for everyone.
But, buried in our Collect for the Third Sunday of Epiphany, is an inward question that we must address in prayer. Let’s take a look:
The Third Sunday of Epiphany
Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
A Tough Call
As Joshua shared last week, Collects usually begin with a direct address to God—this week, we’ve got a little reversal. The prayer starts with the request, emphasized with those hard “g” consonant sounds. It’s as if we have shown up a bit out of breath, jumping straight to our needs, forgetting the formality of a greeting. What generates this desperation?
When we hit our knees to pray this prayer, we are coming from a world infatuated with bad news. We love ‘click bait’ headlines that appeal to the worst in us. Our politicians confirm our fears and stir animosity. Our conversations consist of comparing our laundry lists of anxieties, angers, and urgencies.
In the midst of that world, we have a call to “proclaim to all people the Good News.” With such a strong pull toward ‘Bad News’, that’s a tough task.
To Answer Readily
Because Collects consist of long sentences with winding syntax, we might think of them as ‘wordy’; in fact, they are remarkably compact. They are like those jackets that can fold up into a fist-sized bag—it’s a lot of material packed into a tight space. Which is why we should note that word, “readily.”
Adverbs are usually fluffy descriptors that are the first to go in revision. There’s not another adverb in the whole Collect. Its inclusion here, then, emphasizes that we ask God not just for the grace to answer Christ’s call, but we need the grace to be ready, to be prepared to answer that call.
This is where we get to the ‘inward’ aspect of this ‘outward’ Epiphany prayer. Our ability to answer the call to proclaim the Good News, to reflect the light of our Savior out into a dark and waiting world, is contingent on our own perception of “the glory of God’s marvelous works.”
We and the Whole World
The inward challenge of this prayer, which generates the desperation of our appeal is the plain question: Are you a witness to the glory of God?
The opening chapter of John’s first letter says it this way:
 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.  And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (1 John 1:1–4 ESV; emphasis mine)
In the first three verses, there are seven direct references to the personal experience of Christ’s work. It is out of that experience that we “proclaim also to” others. This sounds like the words of Peter and John before the council in Acts 4:20—“we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” Their experience of ‘amazing grace’ was the engine that drove them to bear witness to Christ’s work.
If our prayer this week read “that the whole world may perceive” instead of “we and the whole world,” it would be in danger of echoing the prayer of the Pharisee who condescendingly recognized the desperate condition of others, but was blind to his own need.
When we have been given the grace to see the gospel in our own lives, our proclamation becomes an invitation, not a condemnation. We don’t share the gospel merely to get others to ‘clean up their act.’ As John writes, we eagerly desire that others will “have fellowship with us,” joining in this incredible calling. In fact, John writes, “our joy” is incomplete until everyone has heard this news.
This week, as you pray these words, ask for the grace (and joy!) of seeing anew the marvelous works of Christ in your own heart. Then, having been made ready, answer the call to proclaim Good News and invite everyone into his glorious light.
Kolby Kerr is an Anglican priest who serves at Restoration Anglican Church in Richardson, Texas. He’s also the Assistant Director (and regular blog contributor) at LeaderWorks, a nonprofit organization that provides leadership services to help church leaders do their work. Before joining LeaderWorks, Kolby taught high school English for ten years. He and his wife Emily live in Richardson with their two sons, Beckett and Samuel.
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