Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.
Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.
There was this chorus we used to sing in Youth Group.
Praise the Lord.
I don’t care what the devil’s gonna do
The Word in Faith
is my sword and shield
Jesus is Lord of the way I feel.
The key phrase, apart from the obvious late-70s psychobable, is the line “the Word in faith”. There was this gnostic-magical movement in Evangelicalism back in those days that basically said if you can say a verse out of the Bible (ie the “Word of God”) with enough faith, it’s gonna happen that way. “Say it and claim it”, “Believe it and see it”… it was a predictable development from the idolatry that creates the Bible, itself, as the “WORD OF GOD”. It used this written word as a spell book, a chance to speak, in my own mouth, the very words that God spoke and so claiming, to myself, the power of God in the speaking of those words. It sounds kinda legit, certainly, in that the last line uses the very words of the Church’s first creed: “Jesus is Lord.” Yet it fails to use those words to say or mean the same thing. Like all gnosticism, it’s the very words the Church uses, turned upside down by some other reading.
We consider today, however, an antiphon that uses those words correctly in the mouth of the Church’s singers. Jesus is Lord is a two part claim: In Greek, κυριος kyrios, lord, is a title of Caesar. In Hebrew, Adonai is a title of God. Saying Jesus is Lord is saying – all visible evidence aside – that Jesus is in charge of everything. This backwoods Jewish carpenter is at once the spiritual creator of the Kosmos and the political ruler of the world.
Far from claiming that Jesus could fix everything (which is what the words of that song say), it was saying this is the way things are. That’s the faith of the Church: not that Jesus is going to fix everything and make us rich, but rather that us, here and now, is who God wants to save and that everything, here and now, is the tools God Jesus gave us to be saved.
And it is to that point on Faith that I’m struggling tonight.
One of the hangovers in my head/heart from my Gnostic Protestant childhood and my Gnostic Newage adulthood is the idea that my heart, my “inner voice” could be the voice of God. Thus, follow me, in some way, if I’m feeling it, it must be sourced in God’s work. If I sit quietly long enough and listen to what my heart is tilling me, I’ll hear God. Protestantism enshrines this in the idea that “me and the Bible” are enough. In our increasingly secular world, the Bible gets left out, of course. Follow your bliss” says Joseph Campbell. “Do what you love and the money will follow” says the New Age movement. The early 20th Century (Old Age?) writer, Aleister Crowley spoke of this divine inner voice as a “Thou” (with the initial capital) in “Do what Thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” Modern secularists say the same thing without the implication that you’re a “Thou” because, of course, there is no Thou.
The Church says that inner voice is the very thing that’s broken. It’s the one thing we can’t trust: the way I feel is the one thing Jesus is not Lord of. The voices inside are there to pull me away from what God wants, the things I feel are not trusted. Ironically, I still feel a tug of this anti-theology when I read the prayers of the Church. When we ask God to save us from “vain thoughts and evil imaginations” my inner voice says, “Well the priest prayed it and God said he would give it to us, and so, these thoughts must be protected, holy thoughts.” Of course, we say these prayers exactly because the demons put such thoughts in our head.
We prepare to celebrate tonight the Presentation of the Holy Theotokos in the Temple of Jerusalem. The symbolism is strong: as the presence of God in Christ among us means the end of the temple ritual system, Mary – the Birth-giver of God – replaces the Temple, itself. She becomes the New Temple in which we worship and the sign of Fruitful Virginity is over our altars. In the Church, her womb, are we all born again to life in Christ.
But only by faith, by resting in God and letting God in Christ be Adonai. Give up your inner voices, your inner light, your addiction to tour own reasoning. Turn to the giver of the law and with his mighty arm he will save you. If I were living my life not “in the Word in Faith” but rather in the Faith of the Church, if I lived as if the burning bush – and not my heart – was Jesus speaking, what would I change?
There are things you can not change, of course, but there are things you can: things for which you are responsible, things for which you make choices. If God speaks from the burning bush and gives the law and leaves the Temple and comes forth from the Virgin and enters my life through Communion: what is my response? How do I live the Lordship of Christ?