Author(s)Sandy Grant
Date 14 April 2023
Category News
Tags News

Almighty God,

grant your people grace

to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil,

and with pure hearts and minds to follow you, the only God,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Preachers sometimes try to engage interest at a sermon’s start by posing questions. For example, does the believer’s greatest challenge today come from within or without? Is it atheistic mockery or persecution from other religions that weakens us most? Or is our own liberal compromise and lukewarm materialism in church doing more damage? The preacher’s answer will be whatever is highlighted by the particular Scripture before the congregation that day. Today’s collect reminds us that it is not an either/or choice!

The collect for the eighteenth Sunday after Trinity recalls the ancient baptismal formula, reflected in the Book of Common Prayer: “Dost thou renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the carnal desires of the flesh, so that thou wilt not follow, nor be led by them?” Answer: “I renounce them all.”

Both collect and baptismal promise may echo the wilderness temptations faced by Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11). There’s the flesh: turning stones to bread to satisfy hunger. And worldly popularity comes if the angels rescue him from temple-diving. And there’s direct devil worship, in return for worldly power.

Thank God that Jesus resisted temptation, and persisted in the way of the cross. At great cost, he did perfectly, what we struggle and even fail to do every day of our lives.

One might also see the triple temptation in three unfruitful soils in the parable of the sower (Mark 4:13-20). The devil can snatch the word away. And the world’s persecutions scorch scriptural growth in others. Or fleshly and material lusts and worries choke our responses.

Listening deeply to the word sown by Christ — trusting and obeying it — that’s the antidote!

The collect has another way of framing the positive alternative: it’s following the only God. Addressed at the start as Almighty, he is Sovereign over all he has made, including world, flesh, and devil. And as its conclusion reminds us, we can only come rightly to follow God, through Jesus Christ, taking and trusting him not just as Saviour, but as Lord.

When we do this, he gives us of his Spirit to change us; indeed to purify our hearts and minds, so that we have the desire, understanding, and means to follow God and his ways.

Like so many of these collects, this one really could be a daily prayer and call to action.

So pray this with me:

Almighty God,

grant your people grace

to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil,

and with pure hearts and minds to follow you, the only God,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.