The collect (prayer) of the day (Tagesgebet) for this past Sunday is one of my favorites.
Lord, we pray that your grace may always both precede and follow us, and make us continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The first petition is a simple plea for God’s grace to surround us everywhere we go. It is a prayer that wherever we go, God’s favor might go before and prepare the way ahead of us and that it might remain with us for as long as we are in that place. I think implicit in the petition, and, perhaps even more so in the second petition of the collect is the idea that we ourselves are to be examples and dispensers of God’s grace–that wherever we go, God’s grace might be evident because we have been there–that our behavior and speech will always be a testimony of grace.
I suppose most of us have friends or colleagues who tend to go heavy on the perfume or cologne. We can tell they have entered the building long before we see them, and we know they have been there long after they have left. Their fragrance both precedes and follows them, so to speak. Our particular experience of this depends in part on our tolerance to fragrance and, or to the quality of the smell. If it is a pleasant fragrance, we may not mind it, or even smile. However, if it is not, we probably roll our eyes and open the windows to air out the lingering stench. If we have a fragrance intolerance, we may have to air out the room, in any case, or suffer an allergic reaction.
In 2 Corinthians 2:14-16, the apostle Paul writes: “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.”
From this text and others (see 1 Corinthians 1:18), we understand that the message of grace and the cross of Christ will be met with different responses. It is is foolish and offensive to some–to those who are dying. But it is the power of salvation to others who believe.
We are unable to control the response of others to grace and the gospel of the cross. But may it be the fragrance or stench of grace and not of anything else that characterizes our coming and going in the world. (More on this next time!)
May the petitions of this collect be continually on our lips, and may God’s grace continually be at work in and through us as the fragrance of life to the world.
Hope to see you on Sunday!