Sunday, January 16, 2011

Jesus as Lord

Jesus is Lord: Can This Title be used with Integrity?

Matters of inclusion and exclusion are critically important within the Christian religion. There is much contention within the camp over where those lines are drawn as well as the more subtle issue as to who is doing the drawing. I would rather see this broader matter examined with much depth and care rather that to spend overly much time on symbolic issues such as the centrality of the single word, “Lord.” Broader issues, of course, are embedded in this highly evocative matter. Still, to get at the level of discourse that is perhaps needed, an effort to push beyond the immediacy of this specific issue to concerns of a more underlying nature may be instructive in helping to establish the kind of mediating center in a firmly grounded Christian theology which is the hallmark of the Confessing Christ (CC) vision.

While linguistic subtleties abound, God and Lord would be along the same meaning, even as I acknowledge that connotation is everything. So would, to use the language of the psalms, in reference to the hymn, What a Friend We Have in Jesus, “Take it to my Rock in prayer.” I wouldn’t want to eliminate any of these references to God, or the many others provided in the Bible, while at the same time I’m not sure I would want to insist on any as a litmus test given the partiality and time bound nature of our own limited knowledge. Moreover, at least in western democratic societies, contemporary usages for the term “Lord,” are archaic, which does not mean the word should be eliminated. Far from it, as far as I’m concerned. However, much subtle hermeneutical work would be needed if this term is going to be fruitfully appropriated at least among more than a few congregations.

Consequently, I would want to issue caution on insisting upon the term, particularly where there is considerable resistance against it, as long, however, as the issue revolving around this word usage can be discussed and respectfully argued about. I am opposed to the unequivocal removal of “Lord” in much of the worship service in UCC congregations and the New Century Hymnal (NCH). At the same time, if other language is available that refers to the sovereignty of God, I’m not sure what the insistence of the word “Lord” is all about, especially if that terminology becomes the basis for a separation or a reason that people, who may be on the margins of faith stop coming to church. What perhaps is missing in many congregations is critical and respectful dialogue where these difficult issues can be examined in a manner where no one feels repressed to mask his or her perspective, questions, or doubts.

There are social, cultural, and theological pressures of many sorts in virtually all congregations, and, I suppose we can all provide examples of “bias” across the ideological and theological landscape. The question for me is how to move forward in creating a constructive religious culture where the critical issues of mediating the faith once delivered to the saints in the midst of the secular city can take place and be examined.

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