Sacrifice AND Example: A Collect Reflection for the Third Sunday of Easter
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The Third Sunday of Easter
Almighty God, you gave your only Son to be for us both a sacrifice for sin and an example of godly living: Give us the grace thankfully to receive this his inestimable benefit, and daily to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
First, a bit of “collect trivia,” if you will.
This week’s collect, for the “Third Sunday OF Easter” (counting Easter Sunday as the First Sunday of Easter), was an original composition of Thomas Cranmer’s in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer. In the 1549 BCP (and most other “classical” BCPs), this collect is for the “Second Sunday AFTER Easter.” In the 1979 BCP, this collect was moved to “Proper 15: The Sunday Closest August 17.”
So, the ACNA has returned this collect to its “original” position on the second Sunday after Easter Sunday. Now you know.
More importantly, what does this collect say about God?
Sacrifice AND Example
This collect reminds us that God has given his Son, Jesus Christ, “to be for us both a sacrifice for sin and an example of godly living.”
Although it’s no longer the case in the ACNA Sunday Lectionary, in the ‘classical’ BCPs (think of the 1662, for example), this collect was paired with a reading from 1 Peter 2:19–25:
For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Jesus Christ suffered for us on the cross, BOTH as an atoning sacrifice for our sins AND as an example of godly living.
These two things must be held together. On the one hand, it will not do to insist on Christ’s atoning sacrifice while neglecting to follow his example. On the other hand, it will not do to insist upon following Christ’s example while neglecting to recognize and cling to his atoning sacrifice.
My two cents: I dare say that those of us on the more conservative end of the spectrum need the former reminder (to follow Christ’s example). And those of us on the more liberal end of the spectrum need the latter (to cling to Christ’s atoning sacrifice).
What does this collect request?
Thankfully to Receive
First, this collect prays that God would “give us the grace thankfully to receive this his [Christ’s] inestimable benefit.” This refers to the benefit of Christ being for us a sacrifice for sin.
Of course, the proper response to such a benefit is thankfulness and gratitude. So, why do we need to pray for this?
Well, I suggest that we need to pray for this response because, although it’s the proper response to Christ’s inestimable benefit, it is not our natural response!
No, instead of receiving this gift gratefully, we often tend to ignore it in our daily lives. Instead, we endeavor to earn God’s favor, to atone for our own sins, as if it all depended on us.
May this collect, then, serve as a gracious reminder that it does NOT depend upon us to atone for our own sins and to earn God’s favor. Thanks be to God! This has already been done for us in and through Jesus Christ.
Daily to Follow
Second, this collect prays that God would gives us the grace “daily to follow the blessed steps of his [Christ’s] most holy life.” This refers to the benefit of Christ being for us an example of godly living.
And, again, we should recognize that following such an example is the proper response. However, this is not our natural response! That’s why we must pray for God’s grace to be able to do it.
Of course, it would be easy at this point to generalize Christ’s example of godly living into “being a good/nice person.” However, I think it’s very poignant that the passage from 1 Peter specifically highlights the suffering that Christ endured as the example we, his followers, are to follow.
So, how might you endure sorrow while suffering unjustly this week? How might you do good and endure while suffering for it?
This is NOT to suggest that we seek out suffering for suffering’s own sake! However, it IS to suggest that following Christ’s example might lead to a fair bit of suffering in this world (even at the hands of those who profess to follow Christ!).
Are we willing to receive this “inestimable benefit,” even as it leads us to our own crosses?
May God give us the grace to follow ion the blessed, bloodstained steps of his Son. Amen.
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