Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER EASTER, 1936.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
“Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.” That was the joy of the disciples on the first Easter. This is the joy of all disciples on every Easter. Easter joy is a personal joy, centred in the Person of the Risen Lord, whose disciples are joyful because He is alive forevermore. By His death He has destroyed death, and by His rising to life again He hath restored to us everlasting life. But even that is not our first and chief Easter joy.
The first and chief Easter joy is that Our Lord is the Living Lord. He is alive forevermore. He is alive to be with His disciples wherever they are and always, even as He promised unto the end of the world. Life and immortality without Him would be empty, as empty as the lonely life through which the first disciples lived from Good Friday afternoon until Easter. They were desolate because they thought they had lost Him. They were glad when they saw Him. They went on being glad even after they saw Him ascend into Heaven, because they knew that He would always live with them. They knew that they would never be separated from Him again.
This was all they thought about. They had neither the inclination nor the time to think about anything else. They have not left a word to indicate that they were thinking about the gift of everlasting life to themselves. Their Easter gift was the gift of their Lord restored to them. That meant everything to them. Their joy was selfless. They were contented because they had Him. He was their life. All life for them was bound up in Him. He had risen. That was enough. Everything was all right again. Everything would go on as it had before.
They were real disciples. Their Lord had changed the life of each one of them. They believed it and lived accordingly. They knew Him intimately. They loved and adored Him, each for a reason all his and her own. They have left us the record of the reasons.
Saint Mary Magdalene had a reason for undying gratitude. So had Saint Peter. So had the other disciples. The life with Him before the Crucifixion had given them new selves and a new world. Then came the dismay and the darkness. Then came the joy and the light. He was the joy and the light. He had come back. They were glad when they saw Him. This is the whole story of the first Easter.
After Easter they literally walked in newness of life. They were manifestly new persons. They left their former lives on one side of the Cross. They took up new lives on the other side of the Cross. The former things had passed away. All things had become new. The former sins dropped away. Our Lord never mentioned them. Their former weaknesses were not remembered. They were transformed by the power of the Resurrection. Our Lord trusted them with responsibilities and duties in His Kingdom. They never doubted nor hesitated. They believed in their forgiveness. They accepted their transformation. They were frankly happy. They were wonderfully peaceful. They belonged to Our Lord and they knew it. The power of His resurrection made spiritual giants of them all. So they went from strength to strength through the Great Forty Days of Eastertide. So they were prepared for Ascensiontide. When the day of Pentecost came, they were ready for it.
Our Lord expects us to do what they did. We can do it. We are His disciples. We have our share in the power of His resurrection. We need have no fear of being presumptious in this matter, because we are trusting Him, not ourselves. We trust in the power of His resurrection to make us new creatures. “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Affectionately in Our Lord,