Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.– Philippians 2:9-11 (NIV)
I don’t hear well. I like to think that this is a relatively new thing, but I wonder if that’s true. One of the reasons I have never really enjoyed listening to music is that while I might enjoy the tune, too often I have difficulty understanding the words of most songs. And that has troubled me ever since I was a teen.
You may remember that back in the 70’s George Harrison released the song “My Sweet Lord”. Now, the tune of that song is rather pleasing. Most of the words of that song I kind of like… that is until you get to the end and the background singers are making it clear that George Harrision’s “sweet lord” is not our Christ but the Hindu god.
Still, many Christian musicians have used this song in worship without the background chant of the original release. And if we apply the popular axiom stated as a question “Why should the devil have all the good music?”, then maybe there is no problem with that.
But somehow, I do. The first time I discovered this I was singing along with the song…worshipping if you will… and then realized exactly what the background singers were chanting! I got a little angry, feeling as if I had been deceived!
Now was I worshipping Hari Krishna?
No. But I wasn’t clearly worshipping Jesus either. By the words I was singing I was worshipping the general idea of a lord, a god, a savior…not the particular One that I knew to be THE Savior.
Fast forward to today. I was recently in a worship service with a very good music team. The worship songs for the most part were really powerful. And yet on at least one of the songs, the entire song never mentioned the name of Jesus. It never even referred to God. And while I am not offended by the use the masculine pronoun for God (while affirming that God created both female and male in God’s own image and that the feminine pronoun might equally be used for God to make that point… but that’s another argument for another day!), I was bothered that throughout a number of the songs the name of Jesus was never, ever used. Oh, it may have been used in the set-up, but not in the song itself. And maybe Jesus is hard to rhyme with and could be overused.
Even more, I know that for most in the room this was not a problem…they were worshipping Jesus. But was it made clear. And if we don’t make it clear in our worship, how can we make it clear in our daily walk?
Paul said that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow…not at the general allusion to the one called Jesus. “At the name of Jesus” is a pointed reference to the real person who walked this earth, healed the sick, made the lame to walk and the blind to see and was crucified, was dead and buried and on the third day rose again. “At the name of Jesus” is statement of faith and belief in His promise that He has gone to prepare a place for us (those who confess His name and choose Him as Savior and Lord) and that He will come again to raise the living and the dead. “At the name of Jesus” to me implies the proper name, not the pronoun.
And yet is seems the church today has become satisfied with pronoun. We have become satisfied with believing in and serving a kind of generalized “savior” or “Christ” whose incarnation was not focused in flesh and blood being but in an idealized version of what humanity might be if….
And while all of this is a much cleaner, easier to swallow version of the Incarnation, I believe in Jesus, who was born of a virgin, who walked this earth facing the temptations of humanity, but lived as God incarnate and chose to die out of love for us that we might be in full relation with the God who made us. His name was Jesus – and I believe His church has got to proclaim it.
Prayer: Lord, forgive me for the times when I throw out generalized praise and don’t really think about the sacrifice you made. Forgive me for the time I take for granted that others understand whose I am instead of boldly declaring it. Lord, help my tongue, my body and my life confess that you, Jesus, are my Lord and my Savior. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran