David Mullen wrote the second piece on “descended from the dead.  It follows:

Christ going down into the bowels of the earth–a metaphor for going deeper than we ever want to go–into the human condition, into the extremity of hopeless, far from God, supposedly, and lost.  But tradition has it that he preached to them.  Ah, so then the dead were undead, that is, not full of life, but able to hear, and receive the gospel.  Hope and Life!

 

But all that is a kind of literalizing of something archetypal.  Jesus descended to the dead: but this is something happening all the time.  Everywhere are the dead, in the world at large, and in the congregations everywhere that are his people, his body.  He descends into communitas to preach and bring hope and revival. 

 

The Christ cannot abide the ways of death.  If some death dweller says, I want to follow you, Jesus, but first let me take care of my dad’s funeral, Jesus says, let the dead bury the dead.  In the extremities of suffering and confusion and despair, when his community is only waiting for rigor mortis  to set in, the Christ/Spirit brings a vision of the valley of the dry bones, and a promise of revival. 

 

Christ does not take death or the dead as the final word.  Never.  The family was distraught because their brother was dead.  The community gathered and wailed, but the Christ, in an archetypal moment, knew what he was going to do and knew the outcome, but prayed loudly so that all could hear his confidence in the Mystery of the Holy One, and, next to the tomb, shouted, “Lazarus, come forth!”  

 

“But, Lord, there will be a stink.”  What?  There is always the stink, but life is stronger than even decay.  Lazarus comes forth, a sign of the great resurrection promise.  “Unbind him!” orders Christ. 

 

He descended to the dead: here where hope wanes and the greyness of the cloud of despair envelopes us.  Here where the wailing and the nattering of the undead (so to speak) seems to shout louder than the good news of salvation. Descend to us now, we pray, and give us life.  Shout to us, come forth, and order your holy angels to unbind us all Lord Christ!

 

Here in this realm of the dead, where we are not dead and gone, but dead and undead, only by your prayer and power can we stride forth from whatever tomb-like dark place we inhabit, barely existing. 

 

Come forth!  And we stumble into the sunlight of the presence of God.  Life!

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