Showing items filed under “The Rev. Emily Hylden”

You Always Marry the Wrong Person

An attendee at my wedding said, “You always marry the wrong person.”

I wonder if this is something like what Jesus communicates through Luke in chapter 14 (verses 25-35). I don’t think the speaker was trying to say that marrying the wrong person is grounds for divorce, but that the cost of the commitment a married person makes at the altar is always higher than you’d bargained for.

Surely an army commander, no matter how wise in warfare, can never know for sure whether his forces are equal to the opposition, and though I haven’t done much remodeling, I do know that building budgets are notoriously unreliable. The price is always higher than you’d bargained for.

A worthy vow is always tested; those which are not a commitment that takes fortitude are hardly commitments at all. It is when we are stretched, perhaps even to the breaking point, of a promise that we’ve made, that God works his transformation in us. More than our hobbies or passions, our work or our desires, people are formed by the relationships that we undertake and carry throughout our lives -- the relationship into which we’re invited with Jesus Christ being the greatest.

The other half of the pronouncement from our wedding guest, which my husband is always quick to add, is, “you also always marry the right person.”

My husband and I have moved five times in our seven years of marriage. We’ve always lived at least 9 hours’ drive from any immediate family. Neither of us has lived in our home state since leaving for college half a lifetime ago. He was raised among many cousins, aunts and uncles, and even more fringe-relatives. I was raised an airplane ride from any relations (outside my parents and brothers) at all.

Not only is one’s relationship with Jesus Christ the defining characteristic of a life, of an identity, and the foundation of transformation, but this relationship orders all others. Rather than the biological or family of origin being one’s primary bedrock, the church and its members takes pride of place in the heart, life, and work of a Christian disciple.

Our parents often tell us they wish we’d “move back home” and that we’d “settle down close by.” Of course, it is difficult to live away from the people and places we grew up with, the beloved relationships that nurtured us into existence and then into adulthood, but my mother understands -- she and my stepfather raised us to follow the call of God in our lives, regardless of where that might send her children. It has scattered us to the wind, across time zones, but we are living the lives to which we’ve been called, and they visit often.

Jesus calls his disciples to a life and mission which they could never fully account before they begin. We don’t know what lies ahead for us in the way of the cross, or the full repercussions of the commitments we make in following the God made known in Jesus Christ, but we do know that whatever valley we traverse, we do not walk alone. Whatever wilderness we wander, we are not without nourishment or support. The price is astronomical, it costs all that we have and more, but it is the way of life.

Following God’s call halfway across the country and back -- and then back again -- has shown my husband and me the great glory of God’s Kingdom throughout our home country, the United States. I trace my spiritual family from the county where my biological parents were both brought up, to the font in St. Paul, Minnesota, where I was baptized, to the little wooden church in Durham, North Carolina, where I was confirmed; the grand old (decrepit) stone cathedral where I was deaconed, the sparse Franciscan-style parish where we were married; back and forth across the country, now vicars at a red-carpeted church in the southern part of Dallas. More than the buildings, of course, the people and our relationships with them have transformed our lives. The spiritual family which we’ve had the honor of growing with has revealed God’s glory and grace in our lives as we’ve traversed the highway system, the encouragement, and even more, the wounds, we’ve suffered, have maintained our “salt” as we’ve wandered the wilderness and sat by the well.

The eyes of our faith may always be bigger than our stomachs -- our commitments are much more wild than we even imagine, but our heavenly Father provides the family to surround, support, and sustain us in the midst of it.

Stanley Hauerwas;

Posted by The Rev. Emily Hylden with

What Do We Mean When We Say He Descended to the Dead?

This arguably most oblique of affirmations in the Apostles’ Creed brings to my mind scenes from two cult classics, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” and “The Princess Bride;” each will be instructive to explore the meaning of the phrase “he descended to the dead.”

First, in the film, “The Princess Bride,” the main love interest, Wesley, is declared by a magician to be “only mostly dead.” This soothsayer continues, “there’s a big difference between ‘mostly dead’ and ‘all dead.’” At least in this, the wizard speaks the truth. To proclaim that Jesus “descended to the dead,” we affirm that Jesus Christ was “all dead,” really and truly, “completely dead.” None of this catatonic state nonsense, or some kind of trance that he then fell out of a few days later when he busted his bandages and walked out of the tomb. Jesus the Christ was not only buried, but got down into the lowest point of humanity -- death itself.

The significance of coming into the state of being completely dead is that Jesus was then able to free those who were imprisoned in death. An early Church Father uses this analogy: it is as if a king descends to the dungeon to unlock the cells and break apart the fetters that hold the prisoners in captivity. He does not descend to the dungeon restrained by crimes that sent him there, but of his free will and for the purpose of using his position to bring those confined out into freedom and light. One might even understand this descent to be the beginning of resurrection, dragging those who would accept his help and healing along with him up to new life.

I’ve promised you not one theological revelation-through-film but two, and so here is the second. In “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” there is a scene ostensibly captured during the great bubonic plague in England; a cart muddles through a crowded village street, gathering dead bodies like modern recycling trucks. A gong is hit, “Bring out yer dead!” shouts the government employee, and a man carries another over his shoulder up to the drop point. The one carried famously protests, “I’m not dead yet!” ( while gong-hitter soon dispatches his mallet to resolve the situation.

Surely this exposes my perverse sense of morality, but the most offensive part of the scene strikes me as this passing of the buck -- the man brings his mostly-dead offering and punts the landing of the final blow to somebody else. This brings to the fore another significant point implicit in “he descended to the dead:” God did not pass the buck.

Jesus himself descended to the dead. The King took his own self down to the dungeons, the smelly, dank, sin-ridden pit of desolation and brought up those who would follow him. Rather than sending an emissary to muck out the stalls of Sheol and slam the door on the devil, God took the trip himself, and did so in the most extraordinary way.

It seems that the only way to descend “to the dead,” which, it is generally agreed, is not another word for “heaven,” or a desireable eternal resting place, is through death. Those souls who were already descended to this place of the dead had gotten there of their own volition -- for the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) -- but Jesus descended to the dead despite his innocence. In going to “the dead” in impunity, he used his freedom to free those imprisoned by their own sin-bought deaths.

So, to those of us already dead in our sin (Colossians 2:13; Ephesians 2:1-6), God himself “descended to the dead” to bring us up to new life through his grace. And so, our new life comes not from protesting, “I’m not dead yet!” but through acknowledging that in our disobedience, we are truly, “completely dead” but for Jesus’ descent to the dead and harrowing of hell for the sake of our life and salvation.


Posted by The Rev. Emily Hylden with

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