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Bo Sanders: Public Theology

updating & innovating for today

Everything Just Changed

Join the Summer Reading Group for “Everything Must Change” by Brian McLaren 51YQr4ADE4L._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_

Every Thursday in June and July at 3 Pacific (6pm EST). You can get the book on Kindle or Audible if you don’t already have it.

Email anEverydayTheology@gmail.com to join

Everything Just Changed Reading Schedule

June 4              (dis)Orientation

June 11            Part 1: Two Preoccupying Questions

June 18            Part 2: Suicidal System

June 25            Part 3: Reframing Jesus

July 2               Part 4: Reintroducing Jesus

July 9               Part 5: The Security System

July 16             Part 6: The Prosperity System

July 23             Part 7: The Equity System

July 30             Part 8: A Revolution of Hope

Pentecost 2020

Today’s sermon (10 min) with full transcript below

50 days after the events of Easter, religion changed forever.

In the cross of Christ, god had identified with the brown body that was murdered by state violence and had vindicated the victim who cried out ‘it is finished’ – let this scapegoating mechanism be exposed for what it is. Jesus unmasked the unjust nature of the powers the be.

The nature of god’s presence in the world was trans-formed as well. The temple curtain was torn in two and the glory of god was exposed to come out from man-made structures and institutions to find its home in the new body of Christ – the people of god.

The event of Pentecost was radically illuminating, thus the symbolism of the tongues of fire. God’s spirit had come to all flesh. This is the decentering of God’s power to the margins, the democratization of religion.

The church is essentially Pentecostal.

I’m not talking about the gift of tongues only, the miracle of Pentecost is not in the speaking but in the hearing. People heard the message of God’s love in ways that they could understand (as if in their own native tongue).

God was communicating through ordinary women and men – not just those with religious titles or theological education. God was pleased to speak through the children of God by pouring out Holy Spirit power on all flesh  in a fulfillment of Joel 2 that daughters and sons dream dreams and prophesy.

Pentecost is my favorite day of the church calendar. Not just because of its liturgical flare or because it is ‘the birth-day of the church’. Pentecost is my favorite because it holds the very DNA of the church being contextual in its message – speaking in ways that people of different tribes and nations can hear and receive that good news of God’s work in the world.

As Methodist we take this very seriously. God’s presence in each person means that they are vector of God’s ongoing work in the world and their experience is a valid location for revelation and reflection.  We added to the inherited Anglican triad of scripture, tradition, and reason the fourth component of our Wesleyan quadrilateral: experience.

We let that experience inform, form, and transform our mission and ministry. That is part of why the historical commitment to the abolition of slavery was spearheaded by Methodist around the globe.

We expect to experience the things that we believe and we believe people’s experiences.

This is especially true for liberal Methodists. To our religious commitment we also add a layer of prioritizing the inherent worth and value of every individual. Every life matters.

When we see an atrocity repeated over and over again of certain demographic of our population – in this case, unarmed black men – being victimized and disproportionally targeted we cry out in lament at the injustice built into the legacy of racism in the country. We rail against the nature of our whiteness in being complicit with the historical policies that police black bodies differently.

We can not stand idly by at the systemic nature of racism in America and it makes us sick to learn about the experiences of whole communities of color being targeted for different treatment for the last 400 years (actually over 500 years in the legacy of colonialism).

We teach our kids to sing “Red and Yellow, Black and White”, all are precious in Jesus’ sight.

The Bible says that if one part of the body suffers, that we all suffer. Jesus said that if even one sparrow falls to the ground, the God’s concern is there. Well more than one part of our body is hurting and we are experiencing the convulsions of that sickness.

Dr. King famously said, ““In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

We can keep silent no longer. We must speak up and stand with our sisters and brothers who are hurting. On this Pentecost Sunday we must also embrace our prophetic voice and speak in tongues that are not our own so that all may hear the message of God’s love and justice in ways that they can hear it. Not just in the langue that we are comfortable speaking but in a langue foreign to ourselves so that the dignity and worth of every soul can hear and receive it in ways that matter to those who hear our utterances.

Black lives matter. Every black life matters. Red lives matter. Brown lives matter. And if that is not true then we can not say that every life matters. So we raise our collective voice to say that we will stand against the systems of injustice and marginalization that have been put in place in order to expose the continuing scapegoat mechanism that plagues our country and unmask the powers that be which perpetuate the ongoing persecution of our sisters and brothers who bear the image of God (imago dei) and on who’s tinted flesh god’s Holy Spirit has been poured out.

The importance of every single life and every single person and community is infinite value and worth to the God we cry out to.

Hear the prophet Amos speak to us again today:

14 Seek good, and not evil,
that you may live;
and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you,
as you have said.
15 Hate evil, and love good,
and establish justice in the gate;
it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts,
will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

16 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord:

“In all the squares there shall be wailing,
and in all the streets they shall say, ‘Alas! Alas!’
They shall call the farmers to mourning
and to wailing those who are skilled in lamentation,
17 and in all vineyards there shall be wailing,
for I will pass through your midst,”
says the Lord.

 

18 Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord!
Why would you have the day of the Lord?
It is darkness, and not light,
19     as if a man fled from a lion,
and a bear met him,
or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall,
and a serpent bit him.
20 Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light,
and gloom with no brightness in it?

21 “I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

 

The Future?

In this Easter series I have been using the notion of différance used by Jacque Derrida to illustrate how hope, faith, and love are always both different in some sense than we expected and also deferred to a degree.

Today I want to talk about the future.

For years as I have taught seminary courses I have tried to convince my students that the saying, “the more things change the more they stay the same” has never been less true that it is today.

In the 21st-century, the saying should be: the more things change the more rapidly they will continue to change.

We live in a time of unprecedented change that happens not at an incremental rate but at an exponential pace. This can be very disorienting and even discouraging for some.

This rapid rate of change affects everything from the economy and environment to technology, our families and our religious communities.

In the last 100 years we have moved from being a largely rural and agrarian society through an industrial and onto a technological society. These changes are profound and cannot be understated.

I recently found a saying that I really like

“the future was better yesterday.”

Many feel like this is too true. The future used to be bright and full of hope whereas now it feels uncertain, chaotic, and even concerning. We can no longer promise to our children that if they just apply themselves they will get a good job and be able to take care of their family.

The future seemed better yesterday.

This is where the notion of différance really pays off for me. The future will both be different than we expected and in some sense our hope will be deferred.

Know this may seem like an odd thing for a Christian minister to say. Some people may think that it is the job of the church to say “everything is going to be okay.” Well I’m not that type of preacher and that is not my understanding of the gospel.

In the post-World War II era many churches took on a very therapeutic rule to help people be well-adjusted citizens in a stable society. In many instances, and I would say mainline churches like the United Methodist in particular, became so overly identified with the surrounding culture but the culture actually took on many of the virtues and values from the gospel individually no longer needed the institutional church because the culture itself had become inseparable to large degree from the ecclesiastical community.

This is the secular age we now live in.

That shift was probably a good thing and largely inevitable. Of course the downside is that the mainline denominations fell into a steep decline narrative and it has caused a real identity crisis.  In that context the role of the church became Little more in some cases then embracing sentimentality and the warm fuzzies. We were chaplains to the empire.

I came of age in the era of the Cold War and I remember with the fall of the Soviet Union, the Berlin wall and communism in eastern Europe that many assumed we were in the end of history. We had reached our final form. Between capitalism, democracy, and nationalism you can hardly imagine a better way.

It became so impossible to imagine that there would be an economic form after capitalism or a  government better than democracy or day when the nation-state was no longer are primary identity.

A famous saying States that for many Christians it is easier to imagine the end of the world then the end of capitalism.

But we now live in a time of crisis. We are plagued by ongoing and perpetual problems: environmental, economic, political, educational, psychological, medical, and relational to name just a few categories.

So as a person of faith I have no interest in promoting some pie in the sky starry-eyed optimism. If that is your brand of faith that is fine and I’m not trying to burst your bubble.

For the rest of us however there is a growing concern that the answers of the past will not satisfy the questions that are present moment is asking about us.

I agree with my favorite philosopher, Zizek, when he said that the light at the end of the tunnel may be another oncoming train.

I know that may seem disconcerting but as a person of faith I want to deal with reality in the clear about what we are dealing with. As people of faith I want to be prepared for the fact that it may get worse from here.

I am uncomfortable with many of the conversations I hear during this global crisis of Covid-19 and the hope to return to normal in the near future. If that happens that I will be glad to say oh thank goodness.

But I keep asking myself what if we get hit by a second emergency? What if there is massive earthquake on the west coast? What’s there’s a terrorist attack? What if there’s an armed uprising by the second amendment crew?

I just want us to begin having a conversation about life beyond what has become normal.

So to begin that conversation I just want you to think about these ideas that I’ve presented today.

  • The saying,” the more things change the more they stay the same” has never been less true than it is right now.
  • The future was better yesterday.
  • The light at the end of the tunnel maybe another oncoming train.

If this is true, what changes should we make during this global pause to come out of this different than we went into it.

Why We Love

This is probably the most daring sermon I have tried.  Enjoy the video – my sermon notes are below.

We live in a very strange time. The old Chinese proverb” may you live in interesting times” was a curse originally and many of us feel like we live under that curse.

It is an interesting time of reversal. For instance, just a couple months ago grocery stores all over the country banned plastic bags and wanted you to bring your own reusable cloth bags. As with anything in modern consumerism, this became a form of both utility but also virtue signaling. It caught my attention in March when grocery stores no longer allowed reusable bags. This is an interesting reversal.

We are seeing so many reversals! From which workers are considered essential to our definition or restriction of who is in our inner circle.

Even love is being reevaluated. It is a unique type of love that says I care enough about you and your wellness that I will distance myself from you. Strange times indeed.

I thought it would be good for us to continue on our journey as Easter people with looking at hope two weeks ago, face last week, and love this week. This triad of terms comes to us from the famous wedding passage in 1 Corinthians 13:13 that says “faith, hope, and love but the greatest of these is love.”

In the Greek language that the New Testament in our Bible is written in, there are several vocabulary words that all gets translated into English as love. Agape, eros, philia, storge, mania, pragma and ludos are examples. They cover a wide array and variety of loves.

We live in a time where some in our society have felt emboldened with what can be viewed as un-love. This manifests in animosity, racism, and anti-immigrant sentiment. It is a sad development in what many of us had previously viewed as a time of progress and open-mindedness for acceptance and openness towards differences. (Some of our cultural opponents may, view this as permissiveness, pandering, political correctness and moral weakness.)

In contrast to that progressive churches like ours have become advocates for tolerance and justice issues. We view this as a type of love for the other.

I want to take this opportunity, as long as we are reevaluating things during this difficult time, to say that our notion of love for the other maybe flawed in a really dangerous way.

A common sentiment I hear from caring liberal kinds is the notion that “they are just like us except…”.

  • They are just like us except they were born in a different country.
  • They are just like us except that they have different skin color.
  • They are just like us except that they are attracted to people of a different sex.

This seems kind and caring on the surface, but there is a concerning misunderstanding underneath this seemingly open and accepting ideology.

We need to be careful that we don’t love other people because they are like us.

Do you see the danger? When we love people because we imagine that they are just like us except… this is certainly better than our opponent’s un-love (hatred) but as followers of Christ I want to be clear: that is not exactly love.

Love for others because they are like us concerns me because what if it turns out that they are not actually like us? Will we still love them despite the difference?

What if they value very different thing? What is they view the world very differently than we do? What is their goals and teams deliver them to a different destination then we had hoped for, what is they have different priorities or spend their money differently or raising children differently or have different sexual appetites?

Do we only love them because we are imagining that deep down inside they are exactly like us?

That is quite a dangerous fiction and ban become a very disappointing fantasy.

This is why as Christians we need to be careful and clear about who we love and why we love them.

1 John 4 says Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

You see it clearly here: God does not love us because we were like God–but for the very opposite reason! Because we were far from God, we were not like God, we did not prioritize what God did or value the things that God values.

This is love. Not because of similarity but exactly and precisely because of difference.

There is a sentiment in our culture that says, ‘an enemy is just somebody whose story you haven’t heard yet.’ As if to say that if you knew what made them tick or what they have been through in the past that they would no longer be your enemy.

Do you see the flaw here? As my favorite philosopher Slavoj Žižek points out that the problem with Hitler is not  that we didn’t know his story. Knowing someone’s story does not make them any less your enemy.

This is why Jesus calls us not only love our neighbor as ourselves, something that liberals pride themselves on, but Jesus calls us to love our enemy and pray for those who persecute us.

Enemy love is not based in similarity but indifference. This is where I like to quote GK Chesterton who said,

“It’s not that the gospel has been tried and found difficult, it’s that it has been found difficult and left untried.”

Now in contrast to the un-love of anti-immigration sentiment, anti-gay rhetoric and the legacy of racism in our country… we may view our liberal and open-minded acceptance and tolerance as a form of love. And it is a kind of love. But I want to be clear that it is not Christian love.

Christian love is not rooted in similarity because deep down somebody is just like us. The spirit of Christ calls us – no, compels us – and empowers us to love across difference and even to love those with whom we disagree. It calls us to love our enemy.

If we love people because they are like us we have done Little more than the average republican. Everyone loves people who are like themselves. Even lawyers do that. Sex-workers do that. Elementary school teachers do that. Nurses do that. Everyone does that.

No, what we are called to is a greater love. Not because deep down somebody is like us but in spite of the fact that they’re very different from us.

This is the love of God that we are called to. This is the higher calling and as long as we are in this time of global pause before we come out of social distancing and stay at home restrictions it is a great time for us to reflect and adjust our trajectory for how we want to emerge out of it this time. Let us be people of real love across difference in spite of disagreement even to those who may despise us into work against our values, undermine our convictions, and even those who seek to destroy the things we hold dear.

As progressive types and liberals, we may be disappointed in the ways of the world is going… but that is exactly why love is so deeply needed in our time.

Faith (vs Belief)

In this short sermon we look the separation of faith and belief. 

Faith and Belief

Let’s have some fun with words. In English, faith and belief have become somewhat interchangeable. I would like to pull them apart a little bit this morning to make some more room for what I believe it is a helpful distinction.

I want to decouple the two concepts.

Beliefs are often held as mental agreements like very strong opinions. We see this in things like doctrinal statements or the creeds that say things like,” I believe in God the father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only son, Born of Virgin Mary…”

But we also use ‘believe’ to mean to trust in something. So for instance, if I ask you, “do you believe in the current administration?” And you said no… you would be telling me that you don’t trust in their project or program or character or truthfulness. You’re not telling me that you think they don’t exist.

This use of the word ‘believe’ actually comes to us through the Latin language that much of Christendom was couched in. Belief in Latin is credo – and it means something like I trust in or I give my loyalty to. It was much more akin to be-love that our current use of believe. The same would be true for the Greek (biblical) word doxa from which we get doxology and doctrine. It is a catalogue of strongly held opinions.

But words migrate and take on new meanings so our current use is much more of an intellectual assent or agreement. So if you told me you don’t believe in the current administration’s competence you mean that you don’t agree with it or trust it.

So I want to concede that newer usage and say that beliefs are ideas that you hold dear.

Faith, on the other hand, needs to be distinguished from that. Sometimes fate is used as a noun as in,”I have faith”. But since we are going to allow beliefs to be in noun– things you hold. Faith then should become a verb: something you do.

Having faith is an action. Sometimes we will talk about faith in action but Faith is in action! To make it over would be to say that we are ‘faithing’.

I think that this is an important distinction for two reasons:

  • The first is that in the biblical language of Greek, faith comes from ‘pistus’. It is both faith in something and the faithfulness to something. We are saved both by faith in Christ and the faithfulness of Christ.
  • The second reason is that we are a church where people are free to believe many different things. We do not require doctrinal agreement on every point. Exactly are trying to foster as a spiritual oasis a safe place to ask difficult questions.

Faith is not about agreeing on all of the answers but living into the better questions.

In American English, believe can be both things you hold dear–and those beliefs may change over time or adapt and evolve due to new information or evidence.

I find this distinction helpful because you can believe what the medical experts are saying about this virus like you believe in global warming or that dinosaurs walked the earth at the same time as humans… but that’s not what it means to be a person of faith. Those are more like strongly held opinions–and I am willing to concede that usage in modern English.

Is a faith that acts. To have faith is an action – it is faithing. It does something. It is active and we participate in it.

It would be like if you want door to door this Summer on behalf of a candidate and you said, ”I really believe in this person’s positions.” Your belief has propelled you into action ended his become the verb that I’m looking for – that is faith.

We can hold beliefs in our head but it is when it becomes a passion of our heart and moves our body into action–in word and deed–that we become people of faith.

3 Kinds of Christianity

The coronavirus has exposed 3 kinds of Christianity:
1) Jesus motivated activity
2) Church attenders
3) Christian Nationalist

These three groups seem to follow the bell curve trend that nearly anything you study in human society tracks with.

The smaller tail at one end of the spectrum is people whose faith compels them and thus propels them into acts of service.

The second, and the largest, group are obedient citizens who are doing their part by social distancing but if they were to be honest just want things to get back to normal. They really miss going to church and all that comes with that.

Neither of those groups is my concern here.

The third group is ‘Christian Nationalist’. Some call this Christianism – I call it Frankenstein Christianity.  You can see how to get there in 5 easy steps.

I was first made aware of this phenomenon when Sarah Palin said that:

Waterboarding was how we baptize terrorists.

You can’t imagine Jesus saying something like that.

Watch this video and let me know what you think.

The Virus of War

We need to be careful about this language of a war against the virus. In the last 30 years war has migrated in meaning it has become too easily appropriated for anything we are concerned about.

We could talk about varieties that have global implications like the war on terror, to more seasonal and trivial instances like the so-called war on Christmas, and everything in between.  We could talk about the war on drugs, the war on poverty, the war on women, and so many other instances of war migrating in dangerous ways.

There are two primary reasons for concern:

  • First, whenever war is invoked emergency measures are implemented and we are in danger of losing our rights at citizens. I will talk about emergency politics below.
  • Second, because of global capitalism and our pervasive consumer society the victory in these wars is somehow always linked shopping.

You will remember the now famous exhortation by then President George W. Bush after the events of September 11 to not let the terrorists win by … going shopping.

A brilliant article came out this week about the impending call “return to normal”. We would be wise to pay attention to how that phrase is going to be used–not everyone means the same thing when they use the same words.

American politicians have become very comfortable invoking the war analogy but it really got my attention this past weekend when the Prime Minister of Canada used to the phrase. As a dual citizen between Canada and the US it always gets my attention when something that I had thought was unique to the American military mentality shows up north of the border.

Then yesterday during the extended media circus of a Covid 19 press conference, the current President of the United States repeatedly claimed that the powers of his office were total.

This is the danger of our exceptional times–exceptions get made that are nearly impossible to retract later. They get codified and instantiated, which sets the precedent, which then moves from being a fluid situation due to an emergency to a solidified expectation that is written in stone. 

The problem is that we now live in a permanent state of emergency.

I write about Emergency Politics every so often. It is far more ominous than its news coverage. Here is a snippet for those who are new:

Bonnie Honig, in Emergency Politics, says “The state of exception is that paradoxical situation in which the law is legally suspended by sovereign power.”

September 11, 2001 ushered in a state of perpetual exception. This applies to racial profiling, police brutality, State surveillance of its citizenry in the NSA – to name only a few.

When people are scared they willingly sacrifice their freedom and privacy in exchange for safety. The State benefits from a frightened population and people are more willing to accept the exceptional measures.

A population is more willing to view as exceptional the excessive tactics and escalation of violence precisely because we now live in a permanent state of exception (or emergency).

Gulli [in this article ] reports, “At the end of his critique of the state of exception, Giorgio Agamben addresses the question of contingency, which is very important in all of his work, when, with a reference to Benjamin, he speaks of “the urgency of the state of exception ‘in which we live’” (2005)

In his eighth thesis on the philosophy of history, Walter Benjamin says:

“The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight. Then we shall clearly realize that it is our task to bring about a real state of emergency.” (1968)

I bring this up in the hopes that our current crisis might help to create a real sense of emergency that will call into question in the larger American conscience a question about the permanent state of exception that has crept in over the past decades.

We must question the exceptional State and its emergency politics that have become too normalized and quietly accepted in our society.

Jordan Peterson on the Resurrection

Jordan Peterson is a controversial figure. I have written about him before.

I found this fascinating YouTube clip where he is at Liberty University (another controversial topic) and he is responding to a question about the resurrection of Christ.

I loved how he wrestled with it. Watch this clip and listen to how he addresses it through the lens of mystery, metaphysics, and symbolism.

Of course Falwell’s smug jest at the end wreaks of certainty – but that is all the more contrast to what Peterson had just said.

Two years ago, Easter was on April 1st and I preached a message called ‘Easter Fools’ and I said:

It is not about physics. It is not about verification of historical accounts. That is the wrong kind of foolish.

Easter fools are people who live into hope, possibility, justice, imagination, and second chances.

  • Life ruptured death.
  • Christ penetrated history and split it in two.
  • Hope overcame darkness.
  • New life rose up out of the ashes.

This is the fascinating and troubling thing to me. We live in an either/or world. Nearly every topic gets broken down into ‘this or that’ categories.  [examples]

Easter has been affected too. Every year I hear people (and especially preachers) talk about a physical vs. a spiritual resurrection. Did Jesus’ corpse get resuscitated or did his spirit just manifest which is why the disciples thought he was gardener or a pilgrim and it took a while to recognize him and figure out who he was.

The truth is that both of these positions are to miss the point!!!  The reality is that neither is a good option. The problem is that one starts with science and then reads that back onto the narrative – the other starts with history and the imposes that on the text.

But if you actually look at the gospel accounts of Easter, you get a very different picture. The better option might be a third way called “glorified”.

Listen to the Peterson clip and let me know what you think.

Silent Saturday

5 min Good Friday reflection

See the sermon notes below on Has Von Balthasar

I grew up without much pageantry around Holy Week. We were holiness evangelicals and we kept things pretty simple and minimal.

I have grown to like some of the liturgical elements of Easter week. The palms of Sunday, the meal of Maundy, Good Friday’s Tenebrae and of course the anthems and colors of Easter Day.

 

I still never knew what to do with Silent Saturday. The creeds say that Jesus descended into hell. The Bible says that Jesus preached liberty to the captives – I have also heard this translated that he proclaimed victory over the evil powers. In church history it often gets called ‘the harrowing of hell’ which sounds more like something from the shire in the Lord of The Rings.

Then a couple of years ago I found this catholic theologian named Hans Von Balthasar.

[ Book: Dare We hope that all shall be saved (side note: turn toward ‘beauty – and away from self)

The vision of suffering love and its power is Christ on the cross]

He talks about suffering love and the power that is seen in the moments when Christ is on the cross. This is the beginning of a theology of Holy Saturday : The day when Christ is dead – that is to say the day when God is dead.  The eternal 2nd person of the trinity is a dead man.

Von Balthasar says that we get the death of Christ wrong when see him as a conqueror descending into hell victorious. We have over-emphasized the aspect of his ‘rescuing’ the Jewish patriarchs

And we need to really embrace that his dead among the dead.

Think about that: the is a victim, scapegoated and railroaded, beaten and battered. Humiliated and made into a spectacle to intimidate future rebels. Hung up like a warning sign on the outskirts of town to alert everyone as to who was in charge. There was not just one cross that day – there were at least three. There would have been dozens that lined the road into the city. Rome crucified hundreds of conquered rebels and would be revolutionaries. He hung between to bandits that day (thieves is too mild a translation).

 He was dead among the dead.

He felt abandoned by God – separated from his source of life, identity, and direction.

[von Balthasar thinks that christ descended into Sheol (not the place of punishment called Gehenna) and after his resurrection when he brought so many with him, that what was left was Gehenna. Sheol would have been the Jewish understanding that Jesus had at the time. Also translated ‘the pit’- not a place of punishment, not the afterlife, there is nothing there but being dead. ]

He went to the place of the dead. Sank to the depths of death. He enters into the pit.

More dead than anyone. More dead than any sinner. As the author of life, he was the most kind of dead.

This was thought to be good news of a sort. Every person who dies descends into this place – goes down in to the pit – and finds Christ already there.

Christ awaits you in death. More dead than you are. More forsaken than anyone ever. More abandoned than you. More separated from God that anyone has ever experienced.

It is in the separation from God that every human is embraced. Into that vacuum the dead are held in Christ.

We find a brother in death. We are not alone in the pit. We have a advocate in the midst of our suffering.

The author of life died a death and became the most dead – now doubly dead, lives to advocated for us – our great high priest – whose name is love – suffered death to the depth of despair.

I want to share this with you during this difficult time of isolation and distancing because the teaching on Holy Saturday says that you will never experience greater suffering, separation, or despair than the one who died and is ahead of us in death. You will never be more dead, more abandoned, more forsaken, more despised or rejected than one who goes ahead of you.

You are never alone and there is always one who can sympathize. Christ has gone ahead of you and lives to interceded on our behalf.

 

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