Why Do We Call Him “Lord”?

This is from an email I received recently:

Our “moderate” churches have eliminated half of the Gospel by “spiritualizing” its espousal of the poor and weak. As a recent SojoMail observed, anyone who says what Maria did in the Magnificat without indicating clearly that he’s only quoting would be arrested for class warfare nowadays.

Well, if not “arrested,” very likely reprimanded and dismissed as extremist.

So what did simple, spiritual Mary (Maria, Miriam) say? Here’s what Luke thought appropriate to record as the point of view of the mother of Jesus. [Luke 1: 46-55]

And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers.”

Wow. Some of that does sound like what the political ‘right’ today calls “class warfare.” This reminds me of the theme of Howard Yoder’s book (from the ’70s, new edition in the early 90’s) The Politics of Jesus [p11].

I will … state the case for considering Jesus … to be not only relevant but also normative for a contemporary Christian social ethic.

That is, the teachings of Jesus (and his example) really are the standard for practical ethics in this world. It’s not enough to “believe” in His metaphysical status as Son of God or as Redeemer, or to “believe” that He is going to take care of you. In fact it is not possible to “believe in” him without desire to give careful attention to what he actually said and cared about.

As Dallas Willard once wrote,

“The first act of love is always the giving of attention.”

Jesus is to be taken seriously. It was he, after all, who asked, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’ but do not do what I say?”

This is also a key concern of Dallas Willard in his book The Divine Conspiracy (HarperSanFrancisco, 1998).

It is the failure to understand Jesus and his words as reality and vital information about life that explains why, today, we do not routinely teach those who profess allegiance to him how to do what he said was best. We lead them to profess allegiance to him, or we expect them to, and leave them there, devoting our remaining efforts to “attracting” them to this or that …

We just don’t do what he said. We don’t seriously attempt it. And apparently we don’t know how to do it. You have only to look honestly at our official activities to see this. [p.xiv]

If … we understand the kingdom of God to be simply what God is actually doing … then the “kingdom” passages in the Gospels all make sense, and yet leave plenty of room to deal with future dimensions of the kingdom, including a millenial reign of a political nature. [p.45]

So maybe the problem mentioned in the email – that if you quote Jesus’ Mother you need to clarify that you are only quoting, you don’t personally mean it – maybe the problem is that too many of us who claim to “believe in Him” do not actually listen to what he said, or to what those said who were most directly influenced by him.

We should change that pattern; because He is surely asking us – and not only the original disciples – something very much like, “Why DO you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not care about what I said?”

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  • Ah, a proper name, well, this is explanation. I was bewildered at the -que-. So milk toast is a kind of solid slop. I thought it to be the name of the latest McDonald’s item of its ever unitary “menuâ€? card. (… Anyhow, I agree, Richard, let’s name the type thus.)

    Answer to the question: Some six weeks ago, at the end of May, I formally left the Baptist congregation to rejoin the ‘independent evangelic-lutheran church’ I formerly (1985-2002) belonged to. This is a Germany-wide ecclesiastical organization much alike our official Landeskirchen, but of much lesser scale (37.000 members in all) – and with a much more biblical theology. It has its own high school to train its pastors (at Oberursel near Frankfurt/Main).

    Some notes on my move you’ll find under Lutheran Speaker Calls For “Friends of Jesus� to Speak Up on Social Issues.