Collect Meditation for the 5th Sunday after the Epiphany Part I

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The first part of this Collect Prayer petitions God on behalf of the Church. Both the “Church” and “household” are mentioned to be kept by the Lord, implying our relational status in Christ. As the household of God, His children, we acknowledge our need for keeping. To be kept “continually in thy true religion” hearkens to our need of help to live as becomes God’s children. Living the faith is difficult. Therefore, we need the grace and help of the Lord. In segments of Christianity, the word “religion” is frowned upon to the point that people that use the word in a positive manner are viewed with suspicion. Now, such reticence might find justification if the word “religion” were not used in Holy Scripture or if the word was only used in the same negative light found in some Christian circles. Yet, religion is used in Holy Scripture in a positive light, which is the meaning behind the use of it throughout The Book of Common Prayer. James 1:27 states, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Now, this is different from the self-made religion St. Paul rails against in Colossians 2:23. True religion in Jesus Christ flows from a life of dependence upon Christ. Our use of the word religion means religious discipline (God’s Commandments such as “Love God and your neighbor as yourself”) and worship. In such, as James states, pure religion is such that loves God, neighbors, and enemies through words and deeds. The misunderstanding of many to justify throwing “religion” out is that it means only religious observance in relation to worship in Church services. Such is only part of the picture. True religion as our Collect prays unifies worship of the Lord in Church services with worship of the Lord through Christ like love all our days. Our response should not be to throw out the use of words due to their misuse. Rather, our response as Christians is to use the words God has given in His Word in the spirit He intended. We do not need to give into the pressures coming from both secular and Christian sectors that say, “I am spiritual, not religious.” Rather, we should humbly state that we are religious and spiritual through Jesus Christ. As God’s household, all that flows from His love of us in terms of how such changes our hearts to love is pure and undefiled religion. This outworking of God’s love in Christ through us is spiritual. I Peter 2:25 states, “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Embrace the fact that as Christians, we are religious and spiritual. This is what God has called us to in Jesus Christ.