I have an obsessive personality. Depending on the subject, that may very helpful. As of recent I’ve returned to my love for guitar. However, one other obsession has been a prayerbook of the English Reformation called “The Book of Common Prayer” (1662). If you’ve never been acquainted with it, it’s a fascinating tool meant to guide the whole of Christian life. You’ll find prayers and recommended Scripture readings for the entire year, the entire book of Psalms and how to read the whole book every month. You’ll also find various orders of worship for the different aspects of a church’s life.
One prayer in particular has been my chief focus for this Holy Week. It’s the Collect or prayer for the Sunday before Easter which gives us these words:
Almighty and everlasting God, who, of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Its language is as brilliant as its imagery is beautiful. What a picture for the believer!
What is it that is being highlighted in these words that so resonates with believers today? It may be the archetypal magnificence of the selflessness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus even on his way to the cross counsels the women of Jerusalem and prays for mercy upon his torturers. But it is more than a sheer exemplary of virtue that is laudable in the Christ-figure. It is his genuine victory over man’s great enemy: Death.
I presume you’ve thought about Death recently. The greatest fear haunting the dreams and corridors of men’s hearts at this time is Death. We are so naturally terrified of it. We are fearful of its cold, slender fingers, grasping our throats and slowly tightening like a vice. We fear the unknown and invisible assailant striking us, when we are most vulnerable. We are fearful for our children, and the dread of perhaps watching helplessly as Death passes us by in order to carry them away as we watch in agony. In the deepest horrors of our hearts, we seek solace in the only place we can: distraction. But distraction can only deal with Death for so long. And here we find comfort in those few words from the Collect.
The Collect reminds us of Death’s bane, “Mercifully grant, that we may … also be made partakers of His resurrection…” Death’s fingers are pulled by Christ’s nail pierced hands forever. Death may shriek in the darkness. Death may surround us with its icy presence, but what Death cannot do is conquer Christ’s people. The light of Christ comes like the morning’s rays and gives warmth and hope, where fear once trod. We have, in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, seen Death bound in the tomb of Christ. The Lord may have rested in the tomb for days, but Death has been bound there since that first Easter morn.
This Easter may be the most bizarre Easter of our lives. But the power of the resurrected Lord still shines forth, even if we are bound to our homes. Christ is still on the throne. Death has been defanged. Christians around the world can celebrate, even with their last breath. Why? Because my friends we have been “made partakers of His resurrection”. As the Apostle wrote, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1 ESV) You have been raised forever beloved. Therefore rejoice! Rejoice in Christ’s victory! Rejoice in Death’s defeat! Lastly rejoice, that someday, should the Lord tarry, we too will die, but it will not be to our loss in those moments, but unto our infinite gain as we are freed from this body of corruption, sin, and weakness and forever made good, beautiful and healthy. What a hope to be a Christian today! What a peace! What a future awaits us! He is risen! The Lord is risen indeed!
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