O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Collect for Lent 2 is a challenging one. Once a prayer for heretics and schismatics, that they might be delivered from their errors and return to the Church catholic, in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer it takes on new life. Marion Hatchett, in his Commentary on the American Prayer Book, notes that “In its new context as a Sunday collect it refers to those who have abandoned the practice of Christian faith” (174). In the 35 years since the 79 BCP was approved, I think this collect has taken on an even broader meaning.
According to a January 7th article in the Washington Post, somewhere between 25 and 30% of people who make New Year’s Resolutions have already failed at the one week mark. Roughly 45% have quit by the 3 week mark. Extrapolating that data to Lenten discipline, by the time Sunday rolls around, we will be 10 days into Lent, which means that nearly 1/3 of us will have already quit or failed our Lenten practice. A night out calls for a glass of wine, I get it. 11″ of snow in north Alabama meant you didn’t run for a week, sure. Morning Prayer out of the BCP is really hard to juggle for one person, and it just plain feels weird, I know.
Shocking as it may be to believe, Homer Simpson has been wrong before. Failure at least means you tried, and that’s a good thing. On Sunday, when we pray for all who have gone astray, maybe we’ll be praying for you. Maybe it’ll be a chance to start again at deepening your relationship with God. Maybe it’ll be a new invitation to a holy Lent through self-examination and repentance; prayer, fasting and self-denial; and reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. Maybe it’ll be a chance to experience the grace of God that forgives all our sins, all our failures, all our mess-ups.
Bring your goof-ups and your slip-ups and your failures with you to church this week. I plan to. That way, the Collect can be an invitation for all of us into God’s unending mercy.