The Collect Call – a homily

I preached out noon service today and focused on the Collect for Easter 2.

As many of you know, I grew up attending Saint Thomas’ Episcopal Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Up in the choir loft there is a three story tall by nearly twenty feet wide stained glass window of Thomas reaching out to touch the wounds of Jesus.  Even though I’m a decade removed from almost 20 years of seeing that window and hearing sermon after sermon about our namesake, Doubting Thomas, I still feel like I need a break from the story of Thomas.  I just feel bad for the guy.  It’s like a cartoon I saw last week, where Thomas is talking with two other disciples, his hands raised in exasperation as he says, “All I’m saying is we don’t call Peter “Denying Peter” or Mark “Ran Away Naked Mark.”  Why should I be saddled with this title?”  Or the famous 1602 painting by Caravaggio where he very clearly insinuates that the other disciples, the ones who just last week had seen Jesus’ hands and feet, were just as eager to actually touch the wounds as Thomas was.

So, rather than focusing on how I believe that Doubting Thomas didn’t actually doubt, instead today I want to share with you a new resource that is available this Eastertide, but that I hope will continue throughout the year.  The Collect Call is a podcast, a weekly recorded message, put together by two of my Acts 8 Moment friends, Brendan O’Sullivan-Hale and Holli Powell.  Brendan and Holli are both lay people.  Brendan is a member of All Saint’s Episcopal Church in Indianapolis, and Holli is at Holy Trinity in Georgetown, Kentucky.  Each week, they spend about 20 minutes reflecting on the Collect of the Day for the upcoming Sunday.  You should really listen to it; they are smart, funny, and engaging.  If you don’t do podcasts, you can listen to it on acts8moment.org.

The Collect Call for Easter 2 is only their second attempt at this thing, and they did an amazing job; breaking the Collect down into bite sized pieces and reflecting on what the prayer, that is often hard to wrap our minds around right at the beginning of the service, is all about.  Each prayer is only about 50 to 75 words, but they are rich with meaning.  Take this week’s Collect for instance, a prayer that first appears in the Gregorian Sacramentary from about the year 600, we pray “Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

There are words in there that rarely get used, even in the life of the Church.  Paschal Mystery, new covenant of reconciliation, and profession of faith are all terms that we may or may not know, but we trust our priest to pray them on our behalf.  The Paschal Mystery, which comes from the Greek word for Passover suggests that Jesus is our Passover Lamb, sacrificed so that his blood might free us from bondage to sin and death just as the blood on the doorposts set the Israelites free from slavery in Egypt.  Through faith in that incomprehensible mystery, God invites us into relationship with him, restoring our fallen nature so that we can be reconciled, that is “find a way to carry these disparate ideas of death and life within us.”

Finally, we pray to the God who gave us this new life for help making our lives match what we say we believe.  Here’s where the rubber meets the road.  How different would my life look if I lived out everything that I was saying in the Creed: that God is the creator of all things, seen and unseen; that Jesus is the only begotten Son; that the Holy Spirit is the giver of life; that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic?  How would it change the way I buy things, the way I treat my neighbor, the way I vote, if every decision I made was based on what I believe about God who established and invites me into to the new covenant of reconciliation?

It is easy to gloss of the Collect each week; it happens so early in the service and they are filled with fifty cent church words, but what we pray really is important.  Because they set a tone for the week, I encourage you to listen to The Collect Call, to think deeply about these weekly Collects, and to pray them day by day.  Who knows, in the end you might find yourself even more willing to show forth in your lives what you profess by your faith; that Jesus Christ is Lord.  Amen.

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