Jesus, our Lord
You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls
You might be a rock 'n' roll addict prancing on the stage
You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage
You may be a business man or some high-degree thief
They may call you doctor or they may call you chief
But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody
Bob Dylan won a grammy in 1980 for best vocal performance by a male for his song: “Gotta Serve Somebody.
Sinead O’Connor said that she was 13 when that song came out and it blew her away. As a Roman Catholic in Ireland, she thought religious music was boring.
This was something else.
And she went on to say that to her Dylan’s song was about standing up for something. Choose your life and what you want to follow.
That is one of the major interpretations of the song. The idea is that whether we know it or not, we all make choices to follow something.
It might be to serve ourselves. It might be a religious choice or a philosophical choice to follow a certain person, idea, teaching, philosophy or way of life.
It might be to just do what is popular or what your peers do. It might be a conscious choice or an unconscious choice.
However, one of the other ways the song is interpreted is that one has a lot less choice than one thinks, and there are many masters that one has to follow in life, whether one wants to or not…
Parents, cultures, countries, work, peers, schools, religious institutions, are all examples of forces that try to make you obey and they are not always acting in your best interest.
You gotta serve somebody. Is that about choosing what path you will follow?
Is that about having to obey forces you don’t want to obey?
And maybe to be truthful it is a little of each.
And so, the question for us to ponder today is this?
Who or what is Lord of your life?
Or, in other words: What rules your life? Who are you forced to obey and whom or what do you choose to obey?
And it is something we would do well to ponder.
In our Christian tradition and in the Jewish tradition we hearken back to some of the very first commandments. Things most of us were taught to obey.
And the first of the ten commandments is that we should have no other gods but the true God.
And the second of the ten commandments is about not making idols and worshipping them.
And sometimes these seem antiquated and out of date for modern folk such as ourselves…
…but really, they are raising the same questions about what or whom we choose to follow, and what or whom are we forced to follow.
Who or what is Lord of your life? Or what rules your life?
Let me suggest some things that rule people’s lives and there can be a good side and bad side to these things.
Family can rule some people’s lives. More positively there are those who say that family comes first, and they live for their children, or their parents, and pretty much everything they do in life is ruled by the principle: family comes first.
On the more negative side there are those who are controlled by family, and they even feal trapped or enslaved by family.
Work can rule some people’s lives. There are those who take their job very seriously and that comes first for them. Sometimes it is about duty. Some of these people are in helping professions helping people who are sick or in trouble. Some of these people work in policing or military and or some other job where they put their lives on the line.
But sometimes the job is a way to cope with loneliness, or greed, or to get away from family or problems or something else. And sometimes the job is so demanding that the boss or institution is being unfair to the worker.
Some let their faith and religion be their Lord. They commit themselves wholeheartedly to its principles, to its worship, to its service, to its God and to its way of life.
Millions upon millions of people let faith or religion be their Lord.
However, we know that religious institutions have a dark history of control, of violence, of prejudice, of patriarchy, and there are many who are controlled and even abused by the religious institution they follow, and there are religious institutions that squash, reason, or science, or inclusion, or women, or people who have different orientations, or other minorities.
And of course, there are those who know that money makes the world go round and serve the almighty dollar.
For them it is about financial security and working hard, and getting money, and making more, and investing, and profit, and being financially secure, comfortable and even rich.
There are those who serve pleasure. I’ll try anything once. It is all about having fun and enjoyment.
There are those who think life is about peers or friends.
There are others who serve a particular philosophy and it guides their life.
There are humanists who choose to follow certain principles, or there are those who make their life path to save the world from pollution, or to save animals, or to fight for the right for the poor, or to help those who are starving, or to free those wrongfully imprisoned.
And in some ways these things are not wrong in and of themselves. And if we are perfectly honest, the average human juggles different allegiances to different things, struggling between allegiances at work, at home, within maybe a faith community, with their friends, with their own principles…
And not always succeeding in keeping all the allegiances happy and balanced.
So, who or what is Lord of your life? Whom or what do you choose to obey? Whom, or what do you have to obey?
Some of you will be quick to point out that Jesus is Lord of your life. In the Christian church one of the images, metaphors or titles for Jesus is that of Lord.
It is a long and diverse history, and it is not without controversy.
When I joined the Baptist church, the image of Jesus as Saviour was the predominant one. Jesus saved me from hell. At least, that is what I thought. And last week I talked about Jesus as Saviour and how that image changed for me over the years.
But as I started to get really involved in the church, and then I began to believe in high school that God wanted me to work for him. I was to be God’s servant. I was going to follow Jesus and obey Jesus. Jesus was Lord of my life. Jesus has saved me, but now I was going to commit my life to Jesus.
At first, I thought I would be a missionary and go to some primitive tribe who never heard of Jesus and risk my life to tell them about Jesus…. Maybe even be martyred for Jesus. That is because I read a book about a Christian missionary martyr called Jim Elliot.
And then eventually after about ten years the call clarified and I entered Knox College.
I had grown up a little since then and had lost a few fantasies about me being a hero for Jesus, although maybe everybody who starts ministry thinks about being successful and winning souls for Christ, or something to that effect.
At this time, I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book “The call to discipleship” and I came across these words:
“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
I know today it should read something like; ‘When Christ calls people, Christ bids them come and die.”
But I was very much taken by this German Pastor who talked about costly grace over and above cheap grace.
Jesus asks us to take up a cross and follow him.
I thought I was ready to take up a cross and follow him. Jesus was my Lord.
I came to find out over the years that following Jesus was costly…
…but I didn’t give my life in some heroic martyrdom. Instead there was a different cost.
Being a minister is mostly not about heroic martyrdom but about giving your life in little bits through meetings, worship, conflicts, bible study, weddings, funerals. It is giving when wonderful things are happening at the church, and it giving when you wonder if we are getting anywhere in the church.
But here is the thing. When you say: Jesus is Lord, what you are saying is that “I am not.” There are places to go I don’t want to go. There are people to resolve differences with, visits to make, meetings to attend, money to give, needy people to help, grieving people to listen to; and you do it sometimes, not because you want to or it is fun… but because Jesus is Lord and you are not.
I remember the late Fred Craddock talking about the time someone in a military uniform came forward at the end of the last hymn in a church and telling the minister that he wanted to join the church right then and now.
The minister was kind of taken aback. He didn’t do altar calls, that kind of thing. But he tried to meet the person where he was.
The minister asked the congregation to sit down. He asked the man’s name and introduced him to the congregation.
Then the minister asked him, “Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God?
The man paused and gave this answer. “I accept Jesus as the Lord of my life.”
It kind of threw the minister for a second because most people just say “yes.”
So, after the service the minister asked. “I am curious why you didn’t just say “yes.”
The soldier replied. “I’m sorry, but I didn’t really know what it meant to say Jesus was the Christ. But I so know how to take orders. Is that all right?”
Yes, it’s all right.
When we say Jesus is Lord, it is about taking orders.
Jesus said “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”
Following orders according to Jesus is the way to bring the kingdom.
And Jesus laments another time about those who call him Lord, but don’t do what Jesus asks of them.
46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you?
But let me tell you there are those who have problems with this view of Jesus.
Dorothy Soelle, the late German Liberation and Feminist theologian had trouble with understanding the whole concept of following orders.
She wrote that she was a German and lived through the war, and she had difficulty coming to terms with the Holocaust and Germany’s role, and maybe even the church’s role or lack of role in the Holocaust.
So, she wrote that as a woman and as a German, she had grave difficulties with just accepting orders.
She also wrote that the traditional language of religion is stolen from the masculine dominated language of our culture, in which a male God ordains and imperial power radiates forth.
She was a mystic who advocated that people have a direct experience of God. Those experiences transform us at the core and lead us to work for justice.
Many people have been trouble with a language in the bible that talks about us being slaves of God and following his orders.
Slavery as we all know is a terrible legacy, and a horrific way to treat people.
Surely as an image of the way Jesus treats us, it must be better than he is the master, we are the slaves and we should just follow orders.
Down through the ages the church has used the image of Jesus as Lord, in unhelpful ways that led to imperialism, colonialism and dominance.
And so, while we have traditionally understood Jesus as Lord, as the one we serve and obey…
…let us look at a couple of scriptures that put Jesus as Lord in a different light.
At the last supper in John’s gospel, Jesus takes a towel and washes the disciples’ feet.
This was not a fun job. They weren’t wearing nice socks and a pair of leather shoes.
They were wearing sandals and no socks probably and their feet would have been pretty dirty.
And at the end Jesus says: “If I your Lord, wash your feet then you should wash one another’s feet.
Jesus is Lord, but no ordinary Lord. This is the Lord who comes not to be served but to serve.
And then we read that wonderful scripture from Philippians.
5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, assuming human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a human, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.
Jesus emptied himself. Some scholars believe that he emptied himself of his divinity so that on earth he had no special power beyond being an ordinary human.
And then Jesus humbled himself and became like a slave or servant to us.
And he was the obedient one. And he was obedient to the point of dying for us.
And Paul goes on to write. That is why God exalted him to Lord.
I know the masculine term “Lord” is confusing, and makes us think of someone who can Lord it over us. The bible was written in a patriarchal time, and a time when slavery far from abolished…
but what these stories are trying to show that there is a different kind of Lordship.
Not a Lordship of a traditional male power figure who is building an empire…
but a new family of love, a new body of humanity where the rules or principles that count are of service to one another, and where the former Lords serve the slaves.
A family therefore of egality and where there is not higher and lowers, no male, nor female, no slave nor free, for all are one, in the one who loves and serves us, Jesus/
So for me, I guess, Jesus is Lord of my life; not because he is a male ruler building an empire of borders, armies, policies, with a clear class distinctions, and where he the ruler is favoured with money, and castles, and lots of people waiting on him hand and foot…
..but because Jesus is the one who shows us the rules or principles by which to live. Love and service…
For nobody is exempt from love, and no one is too good, too bad, too rich or too poor, too white, or too black, too young or too old, too male or too female, too gay or too straight to be served by Jesus.
And if we want to follow Jesus and call him Lord, then I think we will offer the same service to others. Amen.