Thursday, 30 November 2023 The Rev’d Frin Lewis-Smith


Psalm 24:7-10  

Lift up your heads, O gates!
    and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
    that the King of glory may come in.
Who is the King of glory?

    The Lord, strong and mighty,
    the Lord, mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O gates!
    and be lifted up, O ancient doors!

    that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord of hosts,
    he is the King of glory.


Psalm 24 is about the Lordship God has over the earth, in which everything belongs to God. At a mere word, everything yields to him, every door will open when he demands it. In one reading tradition, Psalm 24 was understood as one of many reassurances that Jesus is Lord of the living and the dead, the one who defeats the power of death and hell over us. The Apostles’ Creed declares of Jesus, ‘he suffered death and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again’. Could this be so? Was Christ briefly in hell, and if so, what happened there?

From the fifth to fifteenth centuries, Christians turned to the so-called ‘the gospel of Nicodemus’ to discover the hell-storming tale of how the newly crucified Christ defeated and bound Satan, and rescued all those (non-Christians) who had died before him, taking them to heaven. The story was retold in sermons, liturgies, literature and artworks. Always there was a tension between the powerful image of Jesus who chooses to save everyone and a need to remind the Christian audience that this was not a licence to sin. Thus the York mystery play shows the first new inmate to the underworld – a barmaid who served short measures and watered down the beer. Other artworks show Judas arriving too late to be part of the pardon. Sometimes Eve has to beg particularly hard to be one of the redeemed.

Dare we live with the image of a Christ who rescues everyone from the clutches of death and the power of hell? Can we be comfortable with God whose nature is always to have mercy choosing to exercise that mercy for everyone? Even [insert a monster here]? Can we imagine hell empty, voided of all power? Psalm 24 reminds us that no door is barred against the Almighty. God has the power to save all of us. Could that be in God’s nature and God’s plan?


Jesus our rescuer,
when you knock upon the door we stand behind,
may we choose to open it in gratitude and not fear,
for we are wholly yours.
The earth is yours, and everything it!

And you have declared
that nothing in life or death
can separate us from your love,
no angel, or principality or power
can keep you apart from us.

Beloved Jesus, rescue us.  Amen.

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