Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
SEXAGESIMA SUNDAY, 1943.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The Collect for this Sunday is not only a prayer; it is a guide for the general practise of prayer. The lesson taught may be stated in the familiar words, "in thy will is our peace." The exercise. of prayer is the lifting up of the will into union with the will of God.
This is the primary intention of every act of prayer. It is not an unwilling, reluctant surrender of the will to the will of God as a last resort. It is a deliberate and eager surrender which seeks peace in a higher and better will than our own.
Experience has taught, or ought to teach, us that we cannot put our trust in anything that we do. Experience is always an exacting teacher and it is generally a painful one. But if one is willing to profit by it we invariably find that it is well worth the pains. If we can accept what experience teaches in the spirit of humility and fortitude we may arrive at such a stage of self-knowledge and of wisdom that we cease to put our trust in anything that we do.
It may take a long time. It takes a lifetime as a matter of fact. But the lesson grows easier as we go on. At last we do become convinced of the fact that we cannot safely put our trust in our own wills. Such a trust does not give peace. The truth is that we surrender our wills in the long run and are thankful to get rid of them.
This does not mean an immediate escape from adversity. Our wills are not so easily disciplined as that. There are constant uprisings. And each uprising brings some warning adversity. Not all that we deserve, but sufficient to serve as a corrective. If we heed the warnings, the adversities will have their uses. They will turn us to God. We shall desire the power which we do not find in ourselves. We shall not rest until we find it in God.
We shall find new meaning in old prayers. The Collect for today is one of these old prayers. It is a prayer of penitence. It is a prayer of hope. "We put not our trust in anything that we do." This is a prayer of penitence. "Mercifully grant that by thy power we may be defended against all adversity." This is a prayer of hope.
This balance of penitence and hope is one of the great glories of the Christian Religion. It cannot be found anywhere else. The Christian puts not his trust in anything that he does. Yet for this very reason he puts his trust all the more in God. The Christian is conscious of his natural weakness. Yet for this very reason he relies all the more on the power of God. The Christian is aware of all the dangers which surround him. Yet for this very reason he depends all the more confidently upon the power of God.
The end for which the power of God is given is that the power shall be used to serve the will of God. We have been thinking of the means by which the gift of power is given. We must be mindful of our responsibility for the right use of that power.
God is the source of the power given to each of us. Therefore we may be assured that we shall have sufficient power to do our duty in that state of life unto which it shall please God to call us. God's power will never fail us. No matter what He gives us to do. We must be sure of that. Not because we are sure of ourselves. But because we are sure of God.
We must remember the words of Saint Paul in the Epistle for today. "Who is weak, and I am not weak? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern my infirmities."
Affectionately in Our Lord,