April 1999

Where's Jesus

by Carole Burton

I am concerned about a growing tendency in our churches to ignore Jesus. Recently I attended a service in a United Church congregation which is by no means a radically liberal one- and the name of Jesus was not mentioned once throughout the service (though the offertory prayer ended "in Christ's name"). Not in the call to worship, not in the benediction, not in the prayers or their ending, and not in the sermon. Only "God" was used when referring to deity. I love God- but he's not a generic god- he's the one who *revealed* himself in Jesus. Jesus came to "give God a face", as someone has said. Without him, God is still a blur.

Someone told me recently of attending a service in Steveston UC, a covenanting congregation (NACC), and the prayers ended "in the name of all that is good", or "So be it. Amen." What happened to Jesus?

Though many of us think the Jesus Seminar folk are out to lunch, has some of their scepticism about Jesus infected us? We had a lot of fuss about the Moderator's statements last year- being UC Moderator, his doubts about Jesus offended us. But with all the doubts about Jesus which are more and more permeating our society, *have* we been shaken in our conviction that he is indeed God in the flesh? Do we sort of feel it's safer to just say "God", and not "Jesus", just in case by saying "Jesus" we're maybe not getting the real thing? Maybe we're just talking after all about a sort of prophet, and not really God?

I've been reading the New Testament lately with this in mind, and have been struck by how often Paul and other NT writers speak of God the Father and Jesus *together*. "God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ". (What about the Holy Spirit? He doesn't get much mention. But enough is said in the New T. that we believe he also is fully God.)

(Certainly that brings us into the whole difficult matter of the Trinity - one God but three *Persons*. But there ARE three Persons, and we DO speak of them separately- all the while remembering that there are not three Gods.)

As Andrew Stirling says, quoting Barth, in his Fellowship Magazine article on the Trinity, the New Testament speaks of Jesus as LORD, again and again, and they use the word which is the Greek equivalent of the Old Testament Hebrew word "Jehovah", Lord. Jesus is Lord.

Especially in our crazy day, I think we need to lift up Jesus, affirm him as God, praise him in our services, pray "in his name". And praise and exalt our heavenly Father too. As the New Tstament does- BOTH. (And give the Holy Spirit due reverence.) I believe we will see more of the blessing of the Lord upon our congregations if we exalt Jesus.

- Carole Burton

P.S. Even Voices United exalts Jesus as fully God, in MANY hymns (which was a surprise to me, because I expected VU to deny his divinity- along with its inclusion of Mother God and goddess hymns and the deliberate substitution of "God" for the vital Hebrew "Lord" in most cases in translating the Psalms.)

If the ultra-liberal agenda of rejecting the full divinity of Jesus succeeds in the UC, we will soon need another new hymnbook! This one, with its exaltation of Jesus' full divinity, will be an embarassment to some.

-VU Hymns affirming Jesus' full divinity (and calling us to *worship* him) - # 50, 54, 58, 76, 101, 102, 122, 138, 149, 151, 173, 190, 210, 211, 213, 325, 326, 327, 330, 334, 335, 336, 339, 341, 344, 396, 472, 630, 631, 667, 711, 904, + ?? (I rejoice to see this aspect of VU, to see our Lord exalted, plus to see the vast number of hymns centred on events in the Biblical accounts of the life of Jesus- even though I grieve over other aspects of the book.)

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