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The Rev. Melville Scott on “A Little While” (John 16)

May 7, 2017

The Gospel reading for the Third Sunday after Easter is John 16:16ff, where the Lord is using the expression “a little while” in talking to His disciples.  The Rev. Melville Scott, in his The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles and Gospels: Being a Devotional Exposition of the Continuous Teaching of the Church Throughout the Year, had some thoughts on this, and here is an excerpt:

A.   A Lesson for the First Disciples.

(1)   Christ gently warns His Disciples that a separation was imminent.  They had hoped for a future like the past, and that Christ would be ever with them for guidance, teaching, and protection.  They could not realize that the present was but for a little while.

(2)   Christ kindly comforts His Disciples.
The coming change was not loss, but gain.  The approaching grief was also only for “a little while.”  This second “little while” must be their comfort in thinking of the first, for if sorrow was soon to come it would soon pass by.

The joy of reunion would surpass the joy they had enjoyed, for it would be the joy of a clearer vision and a closer intimacy, and “their heart would rejoice,” for this joy should never pass away.  All grief should be swallowed up, and no more remembered, even as the pangs of birth are forgotten in the rapture of motherhood.

B.   A Lesson for All Christians.

The experience of the first disciples is a lesson for all.

(1)   Of Warning.
As strangers and pilgrims, “a little while” is written on the whole of our earthly life.  The whole history of the world, human life at its longest, human effort at its strongest, is all for a little while.  There is an acceleration of apparent velocity as the years pass, and the years in youth loiter but run apace in age.

We must never fall into the error of thinking that to be permanent which can only be transient, and become so entangled in cares, riches, and pleasures as to forget that they must end.

This lesson is conveyed by the first “little while.”

(2)   Of Encouragement.
The importance of life is not measured by its brevity, and consists both in what we leave behind us and in what we shall take with us–our example and influence, which we leave, and our character, which we shall retain.  While the “little while” lasts let us do our utmost.  Our three great enemies know their time is short, but we know it too.  The stress of conflict and the tension of endurance will not be for ever.  Reunion with Christ and those we love may be very near, must be near.  How sad to say at the last, “I could have held out had I known it was only for so short a time.”  This is the teaching of the second “little while,” and is full of encouragement.  The second “little while” not only more than makes up for the sadness of the first, but shall issue in that which shall be for ever.

That is quite a point to ponder – what Melville Scott says about “The importance of life is not measured by its brevity, and consists both in what we leave behind us and in what we shall take with us–our example and influence, which we leave, and our character, which we shall retain.”

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