Every year when I open the prayer book to the collect (the prayer) for Proper 18 I am brought up short, once again. I have that collect “pointed” – marked for how it is to be chanted during worship. That was one of the prayers I chanted the first time I was the Officiant for the sung service of Morning Prayer my senior year of seminary. I had practiced chanting, marked the prayers carefully in my prayer book, and was pleased with how well the service had gone.
That was the morning of September 11, 2001.
The collect for Proper 18 begins “Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy…
The Gospel for Proper 18 this year has Jesus telling the crowds following him that in order to be his disciple they had to hate their family, take up their cross and give away all their possessions.
It is a rough Gospel passage. The memories of that day are rough. I can only make sense out of the Gospel lesson, and I draw comfort from, the prayer for the week.
Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts… What is it that we trust in? I hear the words of Jesus in the Gospel as a call to ask what is in that we trust in with all our heart – do we place our confidence in our family, in our own strength, in our possessions and wealth? Family of course can mean more than simply the family of origin. Family can mean the implicit lessons taught by our society, the customs and practices we take for granted as normal, the biases that we receive without even realizing it. Do we trust in our status as Americans, seeing our “family” as something that will be our source of strength? The call to “hate” our family can be understood as a call to know that our true family is that of God, not simply ethnicity or social class or nationality. When following Jesus comes into conflict with the lessons of our “family” we are called to follow Jesus.
To pick up our cross requires humility, to give away all our possessions is to depend upon the goodness of others and to know that we are not in fact self-reliant. When we learn the lessons that Jesus is teaching us in the passage we learn to not confide in our own strength, but instead in the mercy of God.
15 years later and I still am brought up short when I open my prayer book and pray that prayer. I wonder, where we you place our trust? I know that I try to follow the way of Jesus, but I hear his words and wonder just how far I am from truly learning the lessons that Jesus was trying to teach us.