Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER EASTER, 1935.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
We have entered upon the fifty days of Eastertide. The forty days of Lent taught us how to be dead unto sin. We tried to learn the lesson faithfully. Now we must try no less faithfully to learn how to be alive to God. The lesson of Eastertide is to teach us joy in believing. It seems strange that we should need to be taught that. But we do. It will comfort us to know that the disciples needed to be taught the same lesson. It will help us to remember how they were taught. It will cheer us to recall the fact that after the Ascension, "they worshipped, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy."
How were they taught? Our Lord appeared to them. They saw Him. They heard Him. They touched Him. They ate with Him. They lived with Him. We should read the records of Our Lord's appearances after His resurrection and think deeply about them daily all through Eastertide. We should make this our Eastertide rule and try to keep it as faithfully as we tried to keep our Lent rule. If we do we shall have a wonderful seven weeks of refreshment.
The Gospels tell the times and the circumstances of Our Lord's appearances, to Saint Mary Magdalene, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Saint Peter, the assembled disciples in the room when the doors were shut, to the disciples, when Saint Thomas was present in the same room a week later, to the eleven on the shore of the Lake in Galilee, to Saint James, to the five hundred, to the eleven ,on the mountain, to the disciples during the forty days when He spoke to them of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God, at the place of the Ascension.
One point will impress us first, the disciples were so overwhelmed with joy that they could hardly believe their eyes and ears. It seemed too good to be true. It was joy and not doubt that made it difficult for them. It was sorrow, not doubt, that made it difficult for Saint Thomas. Our Lord's death had broken his spirit. But they saw and knew Him and they saw and knew that the thing that seemed too good to be true was true just because it was good.
The second point that will impress us is that Our Lord received the disciples as though nothing had happened. The disciples received Our Lord as though nothing had happened. The life together though was new. The former things had passed away. They were so sure of that they never thought or spoke of it. They literally walked in newness of life. Each became the exact opposite to the former character which each had borne, while they were living on the far side of the Cross. Between themselves and that former life stood the empty Cross and the empty Tomb. The empty Cross meant the forgiveness of sins. The empty Tomb meant the resurrection of the body. The Risen Lord meant the life everlasting.
The acceptance of all this was so sure and so simple. It was so quiet and so steadfast. The sorrowful disciples needed only to wait for the Pentecost which would fill them with the power that would stablish them as the glorious company of the Apostles, the noble army of Martyrs, who would be the foundation stones of the holy Church throughout the world. Their timidity would be replaced by superb confidence, because they knew that their Corner Stone was their Lord Christ.
Affectionately in Our Lord,