When I was a child I liked to sneak into my parents' bedroom to sit at my mother's dressing table. Each time I would move the wings of the trifold mirror so they reflected each other's image of me. I never paid attention to my looks. I only wanted to count the reflections and consider how they must continue, unseen, forever. At the age of 10 I was struggling to understand infinity.
Descended into hell was another puzzling concept, important since I thought Jesus' dying after three hours on the cross wasn't a big enough deal to affect all people for all ages. I knew Jesus rose from the dead, but wasn't Easter God's doing? What did Jesus himself do that pulls me into calling him Lord?
If Jesus truly overcame sin, death and the power of the devil to redeem us, as Martin Luther asserts (Apostles' Creed, explanation to the Second Article), he must have chosen to go to the devil's realm to fight, giving up every advantage. I imagine an epic struggle of the mind played out as Jesus waged war in that dark domain where Satan musters his minions of condemned souls to wreak havoc in God's creation.
But since the advent of Evangelical Lutheran Worship, each Sunday my congregation now declares "he descended to the dead" — as if a passive Jesus simply existed in the cemetery until God called him back to life. A contest with the devil no longer seems a possibility, much less a likelihood, which leaves me to wonder how Jesus is now considered to have overcome the power of the devil. Is there a trend to gradually erase Satan, the Prince of Darkness, Luther's " Wicked One," from our consciousness?
Luther considered the existence of the devil with great seriousness. He said the devil is a liar and murderer, the cause of sin, who hinders God's word and work. The devil, Luther concluded, is after our very lives. Is, not was (Book of Concord).
Jesus fought Satan so all sinners could receive strength to resist the evil that Jesus defeated — even me. What wondrous love is this!
Still, though God's work may be our goal, the devilish whisper, "No, my work," sneaks in to taint our aim.
Shattering skirmishes continue. But Jesus' victory has given us power to prevail, courage to remain steadfast and a guarantee of his grace when we falter.
Check out this week's articles:
'Humanize people we don't understand': (right) Few Americans are more at home while abroad than Rick Steves.
A hidden gem: Nebraska Lutherans use luxury hotel to fund ministries.
Giving Amirah a voice: Mother works to stop female genital mutilation.
Now what? If Dad stays home, why can't I?: Although he believes in God, my husband rarely comes with us to church.
Also: Respect is earned.
This week on our blog:
Kathleen Kastilahn (right) blogs about "giving up" for Lent.
Sonia Solomonson blogs about favorite hymns.
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