O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
This collect is self-serving. It acknowledges that God is powerful in an unusual way of being powerful, namely God shows mercy and pity. Yet the collect does not ask that we have the same power of showing mercy and pity. Instead, it asks for still more ‘heavenly treasure' for us.
The collect is rather like the flattery of a child talking with a parent who has announced forthcoming revisions to her will. “Mother you are so generous, especially in showing mercy and pity on us your children when we have disappointed you. Grant us that we may more fully please you and become partakers of your heavenly treasure.“
Mommy sees through such dissembling.
Jesus recommended a different model, not used in this collect. When we pray, we are to pray that God will treat us precisely the way we treat others: “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us.”
Consider Quean Lutibelle’s revision of this collect, in which I try to follow Jesus‘ model: “O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: hold us to that same standard. Be merciful and show pity upon us only as we are merciful and show pity on those who need our forgiveness. In so transforming us, give us not only the mind of Christ, but also Christ’s heart.” Amen
Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22
Esther is my all-time favorite Closet Queen, secretly a Jew in a country that oppresses Jews. Centuries earlier God had placed Moses in Pharoah‘s household in oppressive Egypt. So God places Esther, smack dab into the lap of luxury and power in a kingdom that oppresses her people, albeit at first she does not even know that she is a Jew. When Mordecai tells her, she must choose whether to deny her heritage or to risk losing all her privilege by becoming an advocate for her people.
Closet politics can be capricious. The Rev. Grant Gallup, chaplain of Integrity’s first chapter (Chicago, founded in December 1974), argued strongly that it is immoral to disclose the homosexual identity of someone who chooses to live in a closet. Their private life is their private life as long as they do not use it as a means to wound others. “However, I will not let someone use a closet as a sniper’s nest!” Gallup proclaimed.
In today’s part of the story Esther exposes the misconduct of cruel Haman, a high-ranking official of the king and an enemy of the Jews. Haman is so offended by the Jews’ leader Mordecai that Haman has built a very tall gallows in front of his own home, intended for Mordecai’s execution; yet with Esther’s advocacy, Haman is hanged from that gallows.
This is one of the strongest psalms proclaiming God’s support in a recent military victory.
When teams huddle for prayer at the beginning of a football match, are we to believe that God determines the outcome of the match based on who prays or who prays most effectively?
When a hurricane devastated Charleston, SC a few years ago, Pat Robertson bragged on his TV program that God had answered his prayers and had not struck his broadcasting station but had directed the devastation elsewhere. Were Robertson’s neighbors struck by the storm in answer to Robertson’s prayers?
(Robertson and I are both alumni of The McCallie School in Chattanooga. We had the same Bible teacher, Dr. J. P. McCallie, although Robertson was enrolled about 10 years ahead of me. Which one of us comes closest to your own understanding of how to take the claims in Psalm 124?)
See the lyrics of Bob Dylan‘s haunting satire, With God On Our Side
James believes in the power of prayer. For him, prayer is powerful not because the person praying is of high rank, but because the person is, as he says of Elijah, “a human being like us.”
James also calls on us to care for those who have fallen away from God. We Christians may succeed if we encourage them to return.
One of the great privileges of my life has been a steady stream of folks writing to tell me that the ministry of Integrity has brought them back into the life of the church. Many had fled the church as unloving and unwelcoming. Many experienced direct hostility from the church and from religious members of their own families.
I pray that the church might continue to learn how strong a testimony to the power of God in Christ the Church makes when it, like God, welcomes with open arms all who seek God’s embrace.
Jesus warns against thinking our denomination, or any other Christian group, has a monopoly on God’s good news. In another place, Jesus counseled, “Other sheep I have who are not of this foal; them I love also.”
A few days after I was diagnosed with diabetes, I was depressed as I made my way through an A&P trying to find sugar-free substitutes. That store has stuck all of its diabetic material in a small, unattractive corner out of the main traffic, behind the bread display and near the meat market.
There were no other customers in sight. The butcher must have noticed my countenance and said with loving concern, “Are you saved?”
I have several responses ready for such questions: “From what?” or “Yes, again and again until I get it right” or “I am an Episcopalian!” or….
But I heard kindness in his question.
“Yes,” I replied, “but at the moment I am not in touch with the grace that I need. I have been diagnosed with diabetes, and I am scared. Will you pray for me?"
The young man came from behind the counter. “What’s your name?” he asked.
“Louie,” I replied.
“I’m Jabrell,” he said, and laid his hands on my shoulders. “Lord Jesus, I ask your blessing on my brother Louie. Take away his fear. Help him make the adjustments he needs to make. Hold him in the palm of your hand. Amen.”