Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT, 1931.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
Today is Refreshment Sunday. Freedom is the note of the Epistle. Refreshment is the note of the Gospel. Through penitence to freedom. Through discipline to refreshment. Then on through pain to redemption. Through crucifixion to resurrection. These are not merely the words of an old story. They belong to the vocabulary of spiritual life. They are the key words of spiritual adventure. They are the pass words which call for an open gate and a free road.
Always in the half-time of discipline comes refreshment. Pain is always shot through with the glow of redemption. Crucifixion is always the last step to resurrection. Our Lord leads the way. The legions of cross-bearers follow in His train. This is the way of life. This is the truth of life. This is life.
The refreshing remembrance of mid-Lent Sunday is that Our Lord always kept in view the joy that was set before the Cross. That joy was the inevitable victory of the Cross. There was never any uncertainty concerning that victory. The Cross shone out in mystic glow, because it crowned the hill of victory. He was alone in seeing that. Since then every one who has taken up the cross and followed Him has seen it too. Men and women have carried crosses since then, not merely gallantly, but gladly. They have found not only the peace which passes understanding; they have found the joy which passes understanding also. They have extracted the uses of adversity. They have developed strength out of weakness. They have changed defeat into victory. Thy have turned sorrow into joy. They have passed from death into life. They, like their Lord, have transformed the Way of Sorrows into the Way of Glory. They have taught us the meaning of a reasonable, religious and holy hope. They have thrilled the world by meeting the very thing from which the world flees. They have amazed the world by embracing the very thing which the world forsakes. They have puzzled the world by enduring the shame from which the world shrinks. They have done more than to passively endure the Cross. They have seized it and held it high above their heads and waved it like a glittering sword and cried “in this sign we conquer.” And with their Galilean Conqueror they have conquered too.
This is not religious poetry. This is religious history. This thing really happened. This thing is really happening today. The refreshing counsel from the Cross is this: “Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you are enduring, endure to the end. For they who endure to the end are blessed.”
The Cross carries no counsel of evasion. It carries no counsel of senseless endurance. It carries no counsel of sullen resistance. It carries no counsel of defeat. It carries the counsel of unfaltering perseverance with an undying sense of victory. This is the counsel of refreshment which makes it possible to face the realities of life.
The penitent find refreshment for the endurance of the pangs which are the price of purgation.
The tempted find refreshment for the strain of the trials which are the price of strength.
The sorrowful find refreshment for the wounds which are the price of peace.
The lonely find refreshment for the solitude which is the price of the sense of the Presence of God.
The discouraged find refreshment for the patience which is the price of attainment.
It is this certainty of refreshment which for a day lends to the purple of Lent the color of the rose.
Affectionately in Our Lord,