The Sunday “Collects” of the Book of Common Prayer (weekly prayers which “collect” the aspirations of the day) are often nearly as rich as the lessons from Scripture appointed for a given day. They are products of centuries of devotion and meditation. Today’s is Thomas Cranmer’s adaptation of an Easter prayer from the Gelasian sacramentary:
“Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord…”
First, we acknowledge that it is only by the power of God that our sinful ways can be tamed. But how does God do that? By crushing our “unruly wills?” By condemning us for our sometimes sinful “affections?” No…by granting us “grace.”
By assuring us of his unmerited favor toward us — in all times and in all places — God gradually transfigures those “wills and affections” until we come actually to love what God commands and to desire what God has promised us! In other words, instead of seeing the commandments as impossible standards of behavior, an awareness of the love and mercy and the true nature of God finally makes it possible for us to love what God loves and to desire what he wants for us!
As that begins to happen, we find ourselves increasingly untroubled by the confusing and complex times in which we live, both in the world and in the church. In fact, our “hearts” (the center of our human personalities) more and more find their rest in God alone — that solid and unchangeable Source of all that is.
That Source is surely “where true joys are to be found!”