Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
EASTER DAY, 1934.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The Christian concludes the Confession of Faith with the triumphant affirmation, "And I look for the Resurrection of the dead: And the Life of the world to come." Note the connecting word "and." It is because the Christian believes in "one God the Father Almighty: And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God: Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man: And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate: He suffered and was buried: And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures:" that he "looks for the Resurrection of the dead: And the life of the world to come."
The Christian is not interested in experimental scientific proofs of survival after death, nor in the proceedings of psychical research. He looks for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the word to come, because on the third day His Lord rose from the dead. The assurance of his own resurrection comes to him through Jesus Christ, who died, and was buried, and rose again. His life is in Christ. He is not concerned with nature.
Eternal life is the present possession, not the future hope of the Christian. He has eternal life now. There is no uncertainty about this. So the Christian's one concern is to live in Christ, here, and now. "Suffer me not to be separated from Thee," is his prayer. Sin alone can separate him. When he prays, "Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep me this day without sin," he is praying for his life. When unhappily he falls into sin and swiftly seeks the restorative of repentance, he returns to life. When absolved he flies to Holy Communion. He regains his union with God. His daily prayers are his conversations with God. His daily life is hid with Christ in God. His daily concern is to reckon himself dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ Our Lord.
Life is sensitiveness and responsiveness to environment. To be alive unto God is to be sensitive and responsive unto God. In the Easter Collect Christians pray: "We humbly beseech thee that as by thy special grace preventing (this word means "going before, guiding'') us thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by thy continual help we may ring the same to good effect." To be sensitive to the good desires that God puts into our minds, and to bring the same to good effect is to be alive unto God. It is all the same whether we are alive unto God in the Church Militant or Expectant or Triumphant. So far as we are concerned, it is our responsibility to obey the laws of life in God, in the body, in this world, and out of the body in the world to come, and finally in the risen body after the resurrection.
Life is all one piece all the way. Death is a transition, not an interruption. We are. We go on. We arrive. We are, at present, in the stage of probation. We go on to the stage of purgation. We arrive at the goal of perfection. God's grace prevents and follows us all the way. Our Lord has prepared the way. He has made every provision for every need and possible contingency. He has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us. There is nothing to be afraid of.
We have just one thing, at present, to keep in mind. That is that we are making our lives now what they will continue to be. Five minutes after death we shall be what we were five minutes before death. If we are settling ourselves to follow the good desires that God puts into our minds, penitently, humbly and sincerely, after death we shall find ourselves stablished, strengthened and settled forever. Our Lord has made this so easy that the weakest of us need not fail.
Affectionately in Our Lord,