O Lord our God, you call whom you will and send them where you choose: We thank you for sending your servant Willibrord to be an apostle to the Low Countries, to turn them from the worship of idols to serve you, the living God; and we entreat you to preserve us from the temptation to exchange the perfect freedom of your service for servitude to false gods and to idols of our own devising; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Collect for St. Willibrord (c. 658-739 AD)
Yesterday the Church gave thanks for the witness of an Englishman who studied in Ireland and evangelized in the Netherlands and Denmark—all before jetliners and the Internet. Willibrord’s ministry was as heroic as it was pioneering. But today, it is the collect we offer in honor of him that fascinates me the most.
“O Lord our God, you call whom you will and send them where you choose...”
Ah, yes—God is the one who calls and sends, not the various forms of Church bureaucracy or the ego of the individual Christian. That is awfully easy to forget. Perhaps it doesn’t stop there? Maybe it is God who sends renewal into moribund parts of the Church, or God who decides it is time to open our hearts to the challenges of a new era—not the latest plan or initiative or trend from Central.
We thank you for sending your servant Willibrord to be an apostle to the Low Countries, to turn them from the worship of idols to serve you, the living God…”
Idolatry? Isn’t that, well, pretty out of date? Come on? Who does THAT any more? Well, maybe a little bit… I am up to my eyeballs in credit-card debt for stuff I’ve long since thrown away, and I do tend to fill the recycle bin each week with bottles (quality stuff, mind you), and there is the matter of what I do with my private time—but that is hardly idolatry. Sure, I have “issues,” but I’m working on them. I just need more time.
“…We entreat you to preserve us from the temptation to exchange the perfect freedom of your service for servitude to false gods and to idols of our own devising…”
All sin, whether it comes in the form of idolatry, addiction, delusion, decadence, pride, or any of the myriad other forms it takes, begins with a promise of freedom, but leads to slavery. To follow Christ starts with servitude: we must die to self and follow Jesus by taking up our Cross. But then it begins to change. We move from the slavery to self that marks the world “as it is” to freedom in God. God’s desire for us in our perfect liberation. We can never get there by simply “being ourselves,” for we have forgotten who we truly are until we stand in the light and love of God.
Holy Willibrord, as we have remembered you in our prayers this day, pray for us in our time, that we may be faithful to the mission you set before us!