Way, truth, and life
Let us pray (in silence) [that we may know the risen Christ]
your Son Jesus Christ
is the way, the truth and the life for all creation;
grant us grace to walk in his way,
to rejoice in his truth,
and to share his risen life;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.
This collect (NZPB p.599) is assigned to the Fifth Sunday of Easter (p.703).
This is a new collect for ASB (Ninth Sunday before Easter) prepared by the Liturgical Commission of the Church of England. Clearly, based on John 14:6 (the set gospel, Year A) with allusions to 1 Cor 13:6; Col 2:6, 12. [Thanks to A Companion to the Alternative Service Book, RCD Jasper and Paul F. Bradshaw]
The ASB version has “…whose Son Jesus Christ is for all mankind the way…” This has been dropped in Common Worship (Church of England - post communion prayer Fifth Sunday of Easter) to become “…whose Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life…” The uninclusive language of “mankind” now sounds odd to those whose ears have “popped”. For those whose ears have not “popped”, the omission of “mankind” is not noticed. For some now the use of “Son”, “his”, and “reigns” are also part of the discussion.
Those alert to these nuances, may have noticed that the material in Celebrating Eucharist is attentive to these issues and uses complementary and inclusive images and language except where NZPB requires otherwise. That those for whom this is less of an issue do not find this attentiveness grating highlights the possibility of writing material where all can be nourished and included.
A bigger issue, theologically, is highlighted by NZ’s extension from “mankind” to “for all creation”. How can we affirm the uniqueness and significance of Jesus and at the same time not condemn and denigrate, in a way that Jesus would not, those on a different spiritual journey? This question is implicit in any intelligent reflection on John 14:6. Brian McLaren in his book a Generous Orthodoxy is an excellent current exploration of this issue. He also clearly highlights our need to move beyond “Son of God” as a gender statement (and certainly is well beyond seeing it as a biological declaration).
Although this collect fits with the gospel in Year A, the attempt to tie the collect too closely to the readings (in other years) is problematic. It fails to understand the way the Revised Common Lectionary readings are organised. Themes are covered in Celebrating Eucharist Chapter 1, page 10; collects are covered in Chapter 6, page 42. That it is prayed on the Fifth Sunday of Easter in England and in New Zealand, in Australia (in Year A), and elsewhere on the same day is worthy of reflection.