Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT, 1935.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
Today is Refreshment Sunday. Lent is half over. The Gospel brings its good news for our encouragement. Its record is a simple statement of something that happened long ago. The wonderful part is that the same thing has been happening to Christians ever since in a more wonderful way.
The great multitude of Christians today, as then, who follow Our Lord, cross seas and climb mountains, led on by the miracles which he does for those who are spiritually diseased. The seas call for faith. The mountains call for courage. The faith to follow. The courage to climb. There is something in the hearts of the multitude more appealing even than hope. Simple trust! Trust to keep on going when it does not always know where it is going. To expect when it does not know what to expect. To look unto Jesus the author and finisher of faith. This is the adventure of the Christian life. The top of the mountain is reached at last.
On the top of the mountain Our Lord is found sitting with His disciples. If we have tried to follow we have found Him there. We know what happened. We learned the lessons that we never can forget. We all have had our crossings and our climbings. Our faith and courage were taxed to the limit. But the reward was worth the effort.
Who does not know that one cannot be heroic all the time? We do get tired and faint. We try to forget it and to conceal it. We try not to complain. I am sure that we have all seen people who were concealing aching hearts with a smile. It is a brave, unselfish, splendid thing to do. Such people give us fresh courage. They have reached the top of their mountain.
How do they do it? Is it only will power to forget and conceal and stifle complaint? No. It is more than that. If it were not there would be signs of strain. But the faces and demeanor of these people who have climbed to the top of the mountain show no sign of strain. They go from strength to strength. They have been refreshed. This is evident. But what happened? How did it happen?
"Jesus then lifted up His eyes and saw a great company come unto Him." He knew they were tired. He knew they were faint. He knew that they had no power to refresh themselves. That power was beyond human power. It was not beyond His power. He saith unto Philip, "Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat?" "And this He said to prove him: for He himself knew what He would do." Philip answered Him. He said that nothing could be done. There was no food. There was no money. Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said that in all the multitude there was only one small boy who had five loaves and two small fishes. But what were they among so many?
You know what happened. Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks, He distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down, and likewise of the fishes, as much as they would. And the multitude was refreshed. And twelve baskets were filled with the fragments that remained. Jesus took the loaves. That is the explanation.
Now take your Bibles and read the rest of the Chapter. Jesus said, "I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die."
Now turn to the twenty-sixth Chapter of Saint Matthew at the twenty-sixth verse and read through the twenty-eighth verse. What happened to the bread? What happened to the wine? At one moment the bread was common bread. The next moment It was His Body. What happened to the wine? At one moment it was common wine. The next moment It was His Blood. "Jesus took bread." "Jesus took the cup." That explains everything.
Now picture for yourselves an Altar in Church. It is early in the morning. A company of people are kneeling and waiting to be refreshed. What has made them to need refreshment? Ah, that is the secret of each. And again Jesus lifts up his eyes and sees the company. "Come unto Me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you." See them now kneeling at the Altar rail. What are they receiving? "The Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee." "The Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ which was shed for thee?" What has happened to the bread and the wine? "Jesus took the bread." "Jesus took the cup." That explains everything.
Affectionately in Our Lord,