Archive for November, 2014

Yesterday, I printed a hand-out for those who were interested in taking something home to reflect upon this week. It included two versions of the Gospel from yesterday (Matthew 25:14-30) and some information about Collects in general, and then specifically, the Collect of the Day yesterday.  In case you missed worship yesterday, here is the information and scripture.

What is a COLLECT?

A COL-lect (emphasis on first syllable) is a word that signifies the summing up of the prayers of all the individual people who have come together to pray and worship together. In other words, a COL-lect col-LECTS (emphasis on second syllable) the prayers. The Collect of the Day, which comes right after the Salutation (“Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. . .”) serves, on some level, to “the collecting of the people at the start of the Mass.”[1]

Over the years (since the 1549 Book of Common Prayer), the Collect acquired a formal structure—kind of like Haiku. The simplest form has three parts: a preamble (address, invocation), a petition, and a conclusion (mediation). No matter what Collect we pray on Sunday, it has these three parts. In many Episcopal Churches, only the priest says the Collect of the Day. At St. Philip’s, our norm is that all of the gathered pray it. The priest alone prays “The Collect for Purity” on behalf of all of us.


“New emphasis on the Scriptures in the Reformation period is reflected in this collect, composed for the 1549 Book. It is based on Romans 15:4, the initial verse of the Epistle for the second Sunday in Advent, the day with which this collect was associate in earlier Prayer Books. The word ‘learning’ means ‘instruction,’ not ‘memorization’ and the phrase ;by patience and comfort of thy holy Word,’ in the traditional version means ‘by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the Scriptures’ (Revised Standard Version). The word ‘all’ in the preamble recalls the criticism of the medieval service books in the preface to the first Prayer Book (Historical Documents, (pp 866-867 [of our BCP]): course readings from scripture were so often interrupted by saints’ days that the Scriptures were never read in their entirety toward the close of the middle ages. The first Prayer Book provided an orderly arrangement for reading almost the whole of the Scriptures within the course of each year in the daily office.”[2]

 COLLECT FOR PROPER 28                    (Traditional, prayed at 8:00 service)

Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them; that, by patience and comfort of thy holy Word we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(Contemporary, prayed at 10:15 service)

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

[1] Marion J. Hatchett, Commentary on the American Prayer Book, (San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995), 163.

[2] Ibid., 195.

Matthew 25:14-30                 Common English Bible (CEB)      Parable of the valuable coins

14 “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who was leaving on a trip. He called his servants and handed his possessions over to them. 15 To one he gave five valuable coins,[a] and to another he gave two, and to another he gave one. He gave to each servant according to that servant’s ability. Then he left on his journey.

16 “After the man left, the servant who had five valuable coins took them and went to work doing business with them. He gained five more. 17 In the same way, the one who had two valuable coins gained two more. 18 But the servant who had received the one valuable coin dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.

19 “Now after a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The one who had received five valuable coins came forward with five additional coins. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five valuable coins. Look, I’ve gained five more.’

21 “His master replied, ‘Excellent! You are a good and faithful servant! You’ve been faithful over a little. I’ll put you in charge of much. Come, celebrate with me.’

22 “The second servant also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two valuable coins. Look, I’ve gained two more.’

23 “His master replied, ‘Well done! You are a good and faithful servant. You’ve been faithful over a little. I’ll put you in charge of much. Come, celebrate with me.’

24 “Now the one who had received one valuable coin came and said, ‘Master, I knew that you are a hard man. You harvest grain where you haven’t sown. You gather crops where you haven’t spread seed. 25 So I was afraid. And I hid my valuable coin in the ground. Here, you have what’s yours.’

26 “His master replied, ‘You evil and lazy servant! You knew that I harvest grain where I haven’t sown and that I gather crops where I haven’t spread seed? 27 In that case, you should have turned my money over to the bankers so that when I returned, you could give me what belonged to me with interest. 28 Therefore, take from him the valuable coin and give it to the one who has ten coins. 29 Those who have much will receive more, and they will have more than they need. But as for those who don’t have much, even the little bit they have will be taken away from them. 30 Now take the worthless servant and throw him outside into the darkness.’ “People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.


  1. Matthew 25:15 Or talantas (talents)

Common English Bible (CEB) Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

Matthew 25:14-30               The Message (MSG)     The Story About Investment

 14-18 “It’s also like a man going off on an extended trip. He called his servants together and delegated responsibilities. To one he gave five thousand dollars, to another two thousand, to a third one thousand, depending on their abilities. Then he left. Right off, the first servant went to work and doubled his master’s investment. The second did the same. But the man with the single thousand dug a hole and carefully buried his master’s money.

19-21 “After a long absence, the master of those three servants came back and settled up with them. The one given five thousand dollars showed him how he had doubled his investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’

22-23 “The servant with the two thousand showed how he also had doubled his master’s investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’

24-25 “The servant given one thousand said, ‘Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.’

26-27 “The master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest.

28-30 “‘Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.’

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Read Full Post »

talentsMatthew 25:14-30

The man stood and watched the master of the house stride away. The master was off on a journey, and he had not said exactly when he would return. The servant clutched the coin tightly in his hand. He had other things to do this morning, and he was unsure about what he should do with this money. This was a lot of money. To earn a talent, you had to work fifteen years. Fifteen years. So the master must have had some confidence in his ability to take care of this talent. Finally, he tucked the coin in his pocket and went to do his chores.

Yet throughout the day, he checked constantly to make sure the talent was still there, because he was afraid he might lose it. Later, as he rounded the corner of the barn, he overheard two other slaves talking. The master had given one of them five talents. That servant was the highest ranking one on the farm. The master had given the other one two talents. The third servant was in awe. Five talents? That was more than most people could earn in a lifetime. You would have to work seventy-five years to earn such an amount of money.[1] Most people in his world didn’t live that long. He listened to the others discuss what they planned to do with the money the master had given them. As they walked away, he thought he heard them say they were going to do some investing. Maybe they could double their money. There were some risky ventures out there, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

shovelThe third man shivered. He was a careful man—even frugal. He was not about to take risks with this money. He knew his master was a fair man, but the master brooked no nonsense from his servants. He ran a tight business operation and held them all accountable. No sir, he was not going to gamble this money away or risk losing it. If he did, the master would deal harshly with him when he returned. The servant took the coin out of his pocket, turned it over in his hand, watched the sun glint off its surface. Then, making a prudent decision, he walked over and picked up his shovel. He strode to a nearby tree and began to dig near one of the big roots.

The master has said goodbye. We do not know when he will return and say hello. In between the goodbye and hello, we must live our lives.

The Christians who heard this parable from the writer of Matthew’s gospel knew that Matthew was not talking about a human being who owned a farm. He was referring to Jesus as the master, one who had lived, died, ascended. One who would someday return. Yet the disciples had no clue when this might happen. When Jesus left them, they thought he would be back soon. Yet by the time Matthew’s gospel was written—probably between 80 and 90 CE—Jesus’ disciples had had to reconcile themselves to the fact that they did not know when he would return—or if he would. So how were they to live their lives in such ambiguity?

Jesus had had confidence in all of them. It seemed clear that Jesus had chosen each one for their different gifts that could be used for the building of God’s kingdom on earth. Yet some had not used those gifts well. Judas, for example, had used his talents poorly. The result was betrayal, Jesus’ death, and a close-knit group that was left fractured, grieving and scared. Now, as the remaining disciples came to terms with the truth that Jesus might not return in their lifetimes, they had to decide how to live. How to preach the good news that Jesus had taught them. Would they pull inward, depend on each other, and stay close to home? Would they go back to fishing, working in the tax office, farming, and remembering Jesus when they met in the market place or worshiped in their local synagogue? Would they go back to living their lives as they had before Jesus called them to follow him? Or would they move beyond safe, familiar boundaries and preach the gospel to all nations as he had commanded them?

Tea Candles Holy Wed There is one truth about seeing light in a dark place. Once you have seen light, you are never as satisfied with the dark. When the light of Christ shone into the lives of these ordinary human beings, their lives changed dramatically. Transformed by the love and witness of Jesus of Nazareth, the disciples did go into all the world. Tradition tells us that Thomas ended up in India. James journeyed to Spain. By the third century, the next wave of apostles had gone further—for example, St. Alban went to Britain and was martyred there. By the eighth century, St. Boniface had preached the gospel in what we know today as Germany.

The light of Christ spread far beyond the shores of the Galilee. This would not have happened if the original disciples had buried their gifts. It would not have happened if they had held tight the love and devotion they had for Jesus within their little group or if they had withdrawn in fear. Instead, while the master was away, they stopped living in fear and started living in faith. They stopped living in anxiety and started living in peace. They stopped withdrawing and started to expand, allowing their faith in the light of Christ to flow throughout the world. Just as the master in Jesus’ parable knew the character and abilities of his servants, and entrusted money accordingly, Jesus knew the character and abilities of those he left to live between his earthly goodbye and the divine hello at the end of time.

So what does it take for you and me to live into the abundance and grace of the gifts God has given us? One thing we might consider is that the master in Jesus’ parable did not entrust his money to his servants, then stay and micro-manage them. Instead, he went away. As one writer has noted, he left “distance and room needed for others to lead, grow, take chances, and flourish.”[2] I wonder if God does the same with us. God gives us gifts of love, of faithfulness, of leadership. God then gives us space and room to develop those gifts.

Do we bury our talents because we fear they are too small to make a real difference? Do we use our gifts frugally, limiting them to groups in which we feel comfortable? Do we sit back and wait for someone else to step forward, when perhaps we are the one God is expecting to step forward and lead? Do we expect someone else to feed us spiritually without taking responsibility for our own spiritual education and nourishment?

People in this parish have many gifts. In the past six months, new voices have joined the choirs. In the past four months, Dr. April Stace Vega, has joined this parish community. She is now working with a group of parishioners on a new focus and vision for spiritual formation of youth and children. In the past couple of months, a group of eight people has begun to work with Renewal Works, a project that included a survey for parishioners about spirituality. Soon, that group will make recommendations to the Vestry. Be advised, however, those recommendations will not get lived out solely by your rector and your vestry. These are ideas that will impact our church, our community, and we need you to step up.

All of us have gifts to offer. That gift could be to contribute a financial pledge. Some of you have the gifts to lead a Bible study or book study. Step up and offer your gift. You can help lead an “Episcopalian 101” class and help others learn what being an Episcopalian is all about. Don’t worry; you will have help. Some of you have gifts to be a Vestry member. If you are asked to run for Vestry, do not think you are incapable of helping to lead the church. Think about it, then be willing to serve on Vestry. Some of you could commit to helping plan an alternative Saturday evening service that welcomes people who shy away from traditional church.

You have gifts. So step up. Be counted. Invest the gifts God has given you. And if you wonder if I am talking to you, I am. Between goodbye and hello, live fully, in response to God’s deep, abiding love. Furthermore, do not ever underestimate the gifts God has given you. Never bury them in the ground. Instead, invest them wisely, with a heart of abundant love. Open your hands. Open your hearts. If you do, you will learn in amazing ways how you can serve God and your community, using the gifts that God has given you.

Who knows what astounding treasures we may find—treasures we never knew we had. Don’t bury them. Invest them—in God and in each other. Amen.

© The Rev. Dr. Sheila N. McJilton

[1] David L. Bartlett & Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Vol. 4, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 311.

[2] Ibid., 311.

Picture of talents and picture of shovel from Google images.

Picture of tea candles taken by McJilton

Read Full Post »


Mama and Daddy 1 sm

My mother has been dead many years

And yet,

My breath catches

At the sight of

Her picture–


Auburn hair still vivid,

Brown eyes still warm,

Love still flowing from two dimensions.


I wish I could see her now,

Her heavy, earth body

Become heaven-light,

Her brown eyes filled

With God’s perfection.


I wonder how many dimensions

She has become?




Read Full Post »