I’m taken by how many times the Apostle Paul references Jesus in the opening comments of his letters to the church—nine times in nine verses in the opening lines of 1 Corinthians. For sure, he references “God,” but it is the numerous naming of Jesus which catches my attention.
I, Paul, have been called and sent by Jesus, the Messiah, according to God's plan, along with my friend Sosthenes. I send this letter to you in God's church at Corinth, Christians cleaned up by Jesus and set apart for a God-filled life. I include in my greeting all who call out to Jesus, wherever they live. He's their Master as well as ours!
May all the gifts and benefits that come from God our Father, and the Master, Jesus Christ, be yours.
Every time I think of you—and I think of you often!—I thank God for your lives of free and open access to God, given by Jesus. There's no end to what has happened in you—it's beyond speech, beyond knowledge. The evidence of Christ has been clearly verified in your lives.
Just think—you don't need a thing, you've got it all! All God's gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.
(1 Corinthians 1:1-19 The Message)
“God ‘Jesus’ [my addition]is the one subject of whom we must never stop speaking” Peter Rollins.
After leading a questioning, skeptical, younger, urban-oriented congregation, I accepted a ministry position in a classic evangelical church. I experienced conflicts in values and means, but what I gained offset the differences. This church invokes the name of Jesus Christ.
Invoking the name of Christ is a defining experience for me.
I live too much in my head. Filtering through the person of Christ moves this knowledge from my head to my heart and gut.
I can speak of God to nods of assent, but naming Jesus often changes the tenor of the conversation. It creates an uncomfortable clarity under the canopy of religion and spirituality. Shifting emphasis from the philosophical to the personal. From the many to the one – Like the Apostle Paul’s Mars Hill experience. And a similar outcome.
The names Christ, Jesus, The Lord, and Messiah reinforce what it means to be a Christian—moving me beyond a religious, historical, liturgical, and theological framework. To a personal, mystical knowing. Spiritual intimacy.
Howard Thurman understands:
The central fact in religious experience is the awareness of meeting God. The descriptive words are varied: sometimes, it is called an encounter; sometimes, a confrontation; and sometimes, a sense of Presence. What is insisted upon, however, … [is that] the individual is seen as being exposed to direct knowledge of ultimate meaning … in which all that the individual is becomes clear as an immediate and often distinct revelation. He is face to face with something which is so much more, and so much more inclusive, than all his awareness of himself that for him, in the moment, there are no questions. Without asking, somehow, he knows.
Name Christ, and somehow, I know.
Rollins, Peter. (2006). How (Not) to Speak of God. Paraclete Press, Brewster Mass. Loc 135