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February 23, 2009


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Welcome back, Geoff!!!

Erin McPhee

Out of curiousity ... what are your thoughts on the 1 Peter lectionary for this Sunday and the Nicene Creed? I'm thinking of going on a "what is it we believe?" slant in light of who Jesus is revealed to be in the Mark text ... any thoughts? I'm having a hard time finding resources on preaching this text ...

Geoff McElroy


Good to hear from you!

So I've been kicking your question and these texts around in my head since this afternoon. And one place where I think there is a strong connection between 1 Peter and Mark and the confusing line "he descended to the dead" (which is what I assumed you meant when you referenced the creeds) is in the idea of God of "going out" from God's self.

In Mark, you have Jesus' baptism and the theophany in the form of the voice, the clouds, and the symbolism of the Spirit descending "like a dove" from heaven into the world. This is then paired with Jesus' announcement in verse 15 that "the kingdom of God has come near." God is moving in the world in a new way.

Then in 1 Peter, you have the line about Jesus "making proclamation to the spirits," the "descent into hell" from the creeds. Here, the grace and love of God that was announced in Jesus' baptism and vindicated in the resurrection moves even beyond the grave to reach those "in prison" (assuming that you accept the premise that "in prison" means hell/Sheol or some equivalent concept). God is moving once again, this time to engage those who have already died.

There are other ways to go: you have Jesus confronting evil (i.e. the satan and "prison"/hell), the strong water/baptism ties in Mark, 1 Peter, and even Genesis. But I think your question of "what is it we believe" in light of who Jesus is revealed to be (and thus, who God is revealed to be in Jesus) is a good one, especially when we seriously confront the doctrine of the "harrowing of hell" contained in 1 Peter. Why did this doctrine come about? What does it suggest about the early church's understanding of Jesus and what the believed about him?

On that vein, I would highly recommend Will Willimon's sermon in the Duke Chapel archives on the 1 Peter text (you can find a link on textweek.com's page for this week's epistle lesson). It might foster some fresh thought.

Hope this helps stir some thinking and inspiration on your end, and feel free to use me as a sounding board anytime!


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