The Lord be with you!

If I were English and part of a society in which Lords and Ladies still appear on a regular basis I might feel differently about the ongoing debate over the use of “Lord” in the liturgy.   I am, however, an American and have never used the word “Lord” except in church.  (Correction: I have been known to exclaim piously “Good Lord!” or “Lord help us!”) Therefore it has seemed to me an unnecessary preciousness to eliminate the word from our worship.  “The Lord be with you” reminds me comfortably of Jesus’ presence in my life.  “God be with you” is a distancing formulation that makes me uneasy.  Against that background, I find comfort in the following statement by the Presbyterian Hymnal Committee in the new Presbyterian hymnal, “Glory to God.”

“In the biblical narrative both the God of Israel and Christ are called ‘Lord.’ The practice of Glory to Godcalling God ‘Lord’ goes back to Greek-speaking Jews who sought to avoid pronouncing God’s holy name, YHWH, by using a replacement term: Lord (kurios). The practice has since been followed by virtually all Christian Bible translations. Rather than being an expression of domination or masculinity, “Lord” stands in for the name by which God chose to disclose Godself in Hebrew Scripture (Exod. 3).

“That ‘Jesus Christ is Lord (kurios)’ is one of the oldest confessions concerning Jesus. It has both a Roman and a Jewish background. On the one hand, ‘Lord’ (kurios) was the title of the Roman emperor. When the writers of the New Testament confess Jesus to be Lord, they thereby
proclaim that not Caesar, but Christ rules this world. On the other hand, in applying the reference to the name of Israel’s God to Jesus, the New Testament makes a startling identity statement: that in Jesus this very God has become present among us.

“Were we no longer to use ‘Lord’ for Israel’s God, we would no longer understand what we claim about Jesus’ identity when we confess him Lord. Were we no longer to use ‘Lord’ for Jesus, we would lose the strongest defense we have against empire: that Christ is Lord, and not Caesar.”



The Rev. Sally FoxNovember 22nd, 2014 at 12:25 am

You must be more comfortable with the use of the word or title, Lord, because you are not as conscious as many are of women for generations being used and abused by their lord and master husbands, up to and including today. When you hear the title Lord, you probably never think of the right of the lord to have sex with any bride on his estate prior to her husband, this being known as “the right of the lord,” “the right of first night,” “the right to bed.” Your preference for use of the title, “Lord,” is certainly your right.

ChrisNovember 22nd, 2014 at 4:19 am

That all sounds rather medieval! Yes, there were generations when such customs prevailed but not, I would have thought, in this country in my lifetime or yours. Can a word not be redeemed or do we need to discard every word ever misused?

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