whose son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life
of all who put their trust in him:
raise us, we pray,
from the death of sin
to the life of righteousness,
that we may ever seek the things that are above,
where he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
I have serious difficulties with this ‘collect for the week’, the collect of the week for Easter 2, from A Prayer Book for Australia, page 505. There is that glorious criticism of some Christians that they are ‘so heavenly minded that they are no earthly use’, and it is this demeanour that is encapsulated in this collect.
A Buddhist I was interviewing back in my broadcasting days told me how profoundly selfish the Christian gospel appears to a Buddhist, as we meander self-centredly through life rejoicing in our own inheritance in heaven. I have much respect for a Buddhist, who, in Buddhism’s true form (not its trendy western crystal-hugging counterfeits) seeks to annihilate all sense of self, and surrender into oneness with all existence.
At the heart of our faith (for no, I am not converting) is the remarkable revelation that the author of all creation does in fact care for us, individually: even for the sparrow that falls. Nevertheless the onus is on us is to ensure that we don’t turn that miracle of love into a self-centred gospel, rejoicing in our own happy times with Jesus, leaving the sparrow to fall uncared for (or the Buddhist scorned). If ‘that we may ever seek the things that are above’ means dancing and prancing around hallelujah-ing our own happies then we are to be as much pitied as those of our brothers and sisters who have decided the resurrection is a barrel of banalities.
In fact I suspect it was not meant to mean that, but just came out that way. For ‘the things that are above’ in the collect are probably meant to be the eternal values of love and compassion and justice at the heart of the gospel. These are values far greater than the prosaic ‘mateship’ that John Howard once sought to include in the preamble to the Australian Constitution. These are the values that dwell at the heart of Jesus’ cry the Cross, ‘Father forgive them’, the cry that dismantles hatred and turns it into eternal reconciliation and love.
‘Hallelujah-ing our own happies’ (rejoicing in our own happiness while others suffer all around us) is everything the gospel is not.
The collect can stay, but only as we realize that it is in scrutinizing our lives, seeing our lives (and deaths) as if through the eyes of God the Judge (an unpopular concept) that we become a resurrection people.
έ̉ν Χριστω̣̃ – (Fr) Michael