Let us pray (in silence) [that God may continue to guide and gather us]
Almighty and everlasting God,
in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations:
Preserve the works of your mercy,
that your Church throughout the world
may persevere with steadfast faith
in the confession of your Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
The Book of Common Prayer (TEC) p.235
The “name” of God regularly refers to God’s nature. As we confess or proclaim God’s name we are called to express God’s nature. The church is a sacrament of God’s name, God’s nature. We are called to point to and to express God. As church we fall short of this calling. Our life individually and together does not express God’s nature. There are church scandals and individuals’ sinfulness. Our worship and services can be so sloppy, so poorly thought through, so lacking in energy and enthusiasm that most have little growth in their relationship with God.
On the other hand we can focus so much on church, perfecting its structures, polishing up every detail of services, that the attention (again) is drawn more onto the church than to that towards which the church is to point – God.
This can be expressed as two problems with a signpost. The sign may be so poor, neglected, difficult to read, that it does not direct people to where it was supposed to be pointing. The opposite is that people can spend all their energy on improving and beautifying the sign – and focus on the sign, again ignoring where it points.
Some Christians are manifestly so duplicitous that their lives deny God. Others appear so self-contained, that people look up to them with awe – but are not drawn by their lives to God our source. Our call is not a balance of these situations, not a half-way position between weakness and strength, but a third alternative: that our lives shine as a light before others in such a way that when they see our good works people naturally end up giving glory to God (Matthew 5:16).
This collect is to be found as the first of the nine collects of the Good Friday General Intercessions. It is found there in the Gelasian Sacramentary (401), Missale Gallicanum vetus (95), Gregorian Sacramentary (339), and the Sarum missal. William Bright translated it for Ancient Collects (p.98)
The Roman Catholic missal retains its position in the Good Friday intercessions and translates it as (including the bidding):
Let us pray, dear friends,
for the holy Church of God throughout the world,
that God the almighty Father
guide it and gather it together
so that we may worship him
in peace and tranquility.
Almighty and eternal God,
you have shown your glory to all nations in
Christ, your Son.
Guide the work of your Church.
Help it to persevere in faith,
proclaim your name,
and bring your salvation to people everywhere.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
The origin of this collect in the solemn Good Friday intercessions can remind us of our calling to pray for a breadth of foci, especially at the Eucharist: the church, its mission and leaders; the world and those in authority; those in need; and our own and local issues.