By guest writer, Ellen Ceely
“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.” – Book of Common Prayer, The Collect for Year B, Proper 21
What and who does God look like to you? When you think about him and his character, what are the first feelings or words that well up inside of you?
What’s so striking about the Collect for this week is that first sentence: “You declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity.” I must admit that when I think about God’s power and how he demonstrates it, I don’t always automatically think about it being shown through mercy and pity. When I think about God’s power, I usually think about mighty things he’s done, like creating the earth, saving Israel from Egypt, and raising Jesus from the dead.
The odd thing is that all of those examples can point to God’s mercy and pity, but I’m more prone to focus on God’s wrath or condemnation. I would venture to guess that the problem with the way I think has to do with what words and characteristics we as humans, and even as Christians, have come to associate with power. When we hear power, we think of someone bold, strong, and fierce. Depending on our background, we might even associate power with something or someone toxic. The word might remind us of greed, harshness, and cruelty, or a hellfire-and-damnation sermon we heard from the pulpit. As people who worship God, we can, unfortunately, come to see him through the lens of other fallen Christians around us.
But power, according to God, is not about defeating others or showing off how much stronger he is than us. As we’ll see throughout the week, power according to God’s definition, is gentle and loving. It’s about protecting the vulnerable, the sick, and the weary. God’s power is about saving his people, leading those who’ve gone astray back to him, and keeping safe those who cannot protect themselves – like little children. God’s power is merciful, not performative, or harsh. He shows pity to all who call upon his name regardless of how perfect we might deem their faith or how many times they’ve turned against him.
As followers of Christ, this Collect should be our prayer—that we might become partakers of God’s heavenly treasure and resemble the one who makes us worthy to partake.
What were the first things that popped into your head when you thought about what the word “power” means to you? Was it in line with what our Collect says? Whether it was or wasn’t in line with today’s Collect, think of a way to remind yourself of the true meaning of power and how you can live this out in your own life. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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