painting Jesus being baptized

Words and their limits

In the first chapter of a new reading project, a book on worship, read this:

Some words about worship speak of the bodily action of falling down in submission and homage, including the Greek words latreia and proskunein. Koreans also use updurida (the verb meaning “prostrate”) and jurhada (the verb meaning “bow down”) together to speak of worship and respect, implying that the God of Christianity is the most high. The chorus of “O Come, All You Faithful,” “O come, let us adore him,” is translated in the Korean Hymnal by repeating updurida jurhada three times. These usages may reflect the contexts in ancient Greece, Rome, and Southeast Asia of bowing to imperial rulers. At the same time, for contemporary Christians, they may also express reverence and willing service to the loving, powerful, and transcendent God we know in Christ.

Duck, Ruth C. Worship for the Whole People of God. Second edition (Kindle). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2021

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It reminded me that we (humans) think about “power,” and about “God,” by using the cultural models we know, from what we have around us.

That must imply that, to the extent that those cultural models are “fallen and sinful,” to use classic church language, they are at best distorted and inadequate.

So, when people say things like “you have to make Jesus Lord of your life,” as if that means making Jesus the Greek tyrant or the Roman emperor or the medieval baron of our lives, we probably need to question that. We probably need to work on learning what it really means.

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“so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend …” Philippians 2:10

Images: Baptism of Jesus, Lorenzo Scott, 1987, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Jane and Bert Hunecke, 1994.52; Christus Rex (detail), Attributed to Hans von Kulmbach [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

4 responses to “Words and their limits”

  1. Personally, I also struggle with the “warrior” language surrounding faith. It’s too easily construed in my own mind as negative. I understand the fight for what is right and just and all that, but the warrior connotation falls flat with me.

    Liked by 1 person

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