Fellow Passengers: This week’s Promise Passage* (2 Kings 13:14-21) transports me to the absurd world of teenage boy pranks, with yet another prayer of thanksgiving for the miracle of surviving those crazy years. In this particular episode, a bunch of us ne’er do wells watched a Saturday afternoon matinee on Shock Theater, Night of the Living Dead, that epic battle pitting the living against the dead in one of the scariest movies of all time. Later that evening we conquered our fears by finding a convenient store clerk stupid enough to sell alcohol to stupid teenage boys. We allowed a sufficient amount of “poison” to pass our lips and in our search for more mischief, sneaked our way late at night into a dilapidated and condemned building of the Veteran’s Hospital, which contained the old morgue. A test of courage was in order; we took turns sliding out a drawer and placing ourselves in, after which the others would push the drawer back shut. Why any of us trusted any of the others to let us back out, I don’t have a clue. I know those few seconds or minutes (who could say, it felt like hours) were among the most frightening of my life. But I also have to say that I never felt more alive or more adrenalin rushing than when the door slid back open and I jumped out.
I don’t know if the Israelite gravediggers from the story in 2 Kings 13 felt particularly alive before the Moabite raiders approached them, ready for action. I can only guess that their adrenalin did rush as the enemies came near. We do know that they rushed the job they were on, chunking a poor old Curtis Lowe nobody into some clay that was already occupied, occupied by bones that had not yet had time to be covered with shovels of dirt, bones of the recently deceased prophet Elisha no less. If the prospect of Moabite arrows didn’t raise the neck hairs of the gravediggers, the sudden leap out of the grave from their suddenly animated anonymous corpse must have. The touch of the sacred skeleton had some kind of mojo working on the stiff, whose blood started pumping again as he jumped to his feet. What really gets me about this story is that it takes up a meager two verses in the larger story of fairly ho hum border skirmishes. As if a real life night of the living dead episode were a mere footnote in the history of palace politics, an incidental happening. As if Shock Theater had to be preempted for a re-run of C-Span. Having jumped out of a tomb of sorts myself, I think I would have felt a bit slighted if I had been the resurrected bloke. He doesn’t even get named in the narrative before the page turns and we learn the “important” stuff, such as King Hazael of Aram oppressing Israel all the days of Jehoahaz.
I don’t recommend getting your adrenalin rushes from touching the cold steel of a morgue drawer in a condemned building or from touching the bones of a dearly departed religious icon in a six foot hole in the ground. But these stories do tell us something about God, who chooses to call foolish boys and caught-off-guard gravediggers and even people left for dead to do the work of the Kingdom, the resurrection work of love. And that work provides enough adrenalin rush for even the stupidest of teenage boys, if they’ll just give it a chance. We all might as well give it a try before we give the gravediggers some work and join Elisha in the clay, for to quote Helen Cooper from the Shock Theater movie: We may not enjoy living together, but dying together isn’t going to solve anything.
How about you? Where does this Promise Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.