Lenten Devotional: March 5th
When we recite the creed and say "Jesus Christ, God's only Son our Lord," it comes out of our mouths easily. But we might give pause when we say "our Lord" because saying "our Lord" was life and death for Christians of the 2nd Century.
The word Lord (kyrios) was claimed by Emperor Domitian late in the 1st Century. It meant he was the supreme ruler and that no one challenged or even rivaled his authority. After Domitian, the Emperors who followed claimed the title for themselves also.
When Christians claimed that there was another Lord, instead of the Emperor, they were committing subversive acts and making a seditious statement. This was serious business, not to be tolerated.
Whenever an Emperor was rivaled or a new Emperor put into place, the first thing the people did was burn incense before the Emperor's image and declare him to be Lord. When Christians were ordered to burn incense before the image of the Emperor they refused and many were then tortured and put to death.
Much the same thing happened in Nazi, Germany, where the government demanded complete and unconditional loyalty. Many churches went along and even claimed allegiance to Hitler in the name of Christianity. But a few Christians remembered that Jesus Christ is Lord.
A number of them gathered in Barmen and issued a declaration which is in our Book of Confessions today. The Barmen Declaration states that Jesus Christ is the "one word of God which we have to trust and obey." It goes on to reject any "false doctrine...apart from this one Word of God." Again, this was no idle statement and many of those who affirmed it were persecuted and killed by the government.
If we are to declare Jesus as "our Lord" it is serious business. We are declaring God is above all other allegiances including family, nation, church, and political party. We may not be asked to put our lives on the line like Christians in our past, but let us at least humble ourselves in a posture that recognizes Jesus Christ as the center of our lives. He is Lord.
I haven't gotten down on my knees to pray in years. I usually pray sitting or standing. But in thinking about Jesus being Lord and thinking about what Christians of our past have gone through for saying "Our Lord," I am getting down on my knees. I encourage you to get down on yours to pray also – literally if you can – and in your mind if you cannot.
Nadia Bolz-Weber puts it this way. "Get down on your knees before a God whose love comes to us in delicate, unprotected, unarmed, defenseless flesh."
So, get down on your knees before Our Lord who loves without caution, without measure, without concern for your past.
Get down on your knees before our Lord who submitted to the very worst that humans are capable of; the thing in us capable of betrayal and flogging, and violence and vengeance, and even murder, and didn't say, "I'm going to get you back" but instead, "You are forgiven."
Get down on your knees because we are out of solutions here. Our Lord's kingdom is not of this world's values. It is not a kingdom that puts up fences around borders, or arms its citizens or takes hostages, or shoots up churches.
Jesus Christ is our Lord because the need to be right and the need for everyone else to be wrong, and the belief that God favors us above all others, and the use of that delusion to alienate and even kill, is seen by Jesus for what it is: belonging to other lords.
This is why we are in need not of a political Emperor King who energizes our worst fears, but of a Savior and Lord who draws all people to himself in pure love with a crown of thorns and the throne of a cross.
Let us get down on our knees before our Lord.
Rev. Brent Barry, Pastor, NorthPark Presbyterian Church