Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EASTER, 1941.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
"Jesus said to His disciples, a little while, and ye shall not see me: and again a little while, and ye shall see me."
Our Lord was preparing His disciples for the days that were near at hand, the sad days after the death upon the Cross, when they were sure that they would never see their Lord again. The joyful forty days during which they would see, with bodily eyes, their Risen Lord. And the days after Pentecost when they would see Him with spiritual vision.
That vision would be far more clear. It would cause their hearts to rejoice. It would give a lasting joy that no man could ever again take from them. It would give an everlasting joy to those to whom the Holy Ghost would come to teach and lead into all truth, to prepare them for the last great day when the Lord Himself shall come from Heaven with glory to judge both the quick and the dead.
At first they could not understand. Our Lord did not expect them to understand just then. They said among themselves, "What is this that He saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again a little while, and ye shall see me: and because I go to the Father?" A little while? "We cannot tell what He saith."
We know now what they saw after a little while. We know now how their sorrow was turned into joy. We know now the secret of that joy. It was joy radiating from their Lord. In His presence they found the fulness of joy. They found an inward and spiritual communion with their Lord so satisfying that it surpassed anything that they had received through their natural senses. They found a joy which the world could neither give nor take away.
The world tried to take it away. But no man ever succeeded in doing it. Their continuing joy was their witness to the power of the Resurrection. This witness was their legacy to us.
After that they had received power, after that the Holy Ghost was come upon them, they became witnesses unto their Lord both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Their witness is our legacy. We, wherever we dwell, have received their legacy as a trust. We are in our day and generation witnesses to the real and abiding presence of Our Lord, and we in our turn are responsible for handing on to those who come after us the record of the personal experience which we have shared with the first disciples and with all disciples.
We share the experience of those first disciples, each in our way. Over and over again we have found and will continue to find in our own lives, strange and dark experiences, beyond our power to explain, and beyond our natural power to endure. Our hearts will not be immune to sorrow. The vivid experience gained in such circumstances is the deep and quiet and altogether wonderful inward assurance of Our Lord's presence.
We find at such times difficulty in understanding what Our Lord is saying to us. We receive Holy Communion. We pray. And yet we cannot tell what He saith unto us. For days the only thing that we can understand is: "Ye now therefore have sorrow."
This is our test of faith in the days when we seem to have lost power to see Our Lord. There is only one thing to do. We must learn to watch in solitude, to listen in silence and to wait in patience. As we watch, and listen, and wait, our spiritual sensibilities grow keener. And at last we hear the voice. "A little while and ye shall see me. I will see you again. I will see you again." We grow in patience.
"A little while." Well, we are willing to wait. All the while deep down there comes first a peace which passes all understanding. Our circumstances may or may not have changed. However that may be, the peace is there. In that peace our inward vision becomes clear. The climax is approaching. At last we arrive. Our Lord appears. We see Him again. The joy is ours at full strength. It is more than worth all we endured. The joy is our very own. No man can take it from us. This is the mystery of sorrow turned into joy.
Affectionately in Our Lord,