So, I could not help noticing that the beautiful little girls who read from their new Bibles yesterday morning for the 3rd Sunday of Advent, up in front of the congregation in their neat outfits and smooth-brushed hair, their shy voices trying to form the big scriptural words, each read a verse that named God “Lord.” They all read together at the end: “Who is this glorious king? He is our LORD, the All-Powerful!” (Ps. 24:10, CEV)
Is this what our daughters need to learn about God?
Especially when the word that is being translated “Lord” in that most wonderful of psalms is not a word that means “lord” in the English language we use and understand. No, it is the tetragammaton, the holy, unpronounceable, ineffable Name, the incomprehensible concession to our need to designate the one for whom an image cannot be made.
Calling this All-Holy, constantly surprising, recurrently unexpected refuser of graven images Lord-Lord incessantly, as we do, has us dragging along the steamer-trunk crammed with everything “lord” has meant to us down through the ages, the baggage of noblemen and peers, the higher churchmen, the knights and their castles, the feudal landowners and their various rights, and all that, including (according to my dictionary) “Formerly, husband; now a humorous term,” as if association with all that riffraff did some honor to the Holy One.
Our practice is not far from graven image making. Because whether the image is out in front of us, like a statue, or is in our head, like a fixed idea, it is the gravenness — the depth, the ineffacibility, the unalterability, the permanence — of the image that makes it such a problem.
We get to thinking that we know God. We forget to keep alert for the ongoing revelation of God the inexhaustible mystery behind being itself . . .
[Ironically, perhaps, this was one of the points of the day’s sermon . . .]
The Bible is full of images for God. The “King of Glory” is one of the more breathtaking ones. (“Glorious king” maybe not so much.) The Bible is full of images for a reason: because not one of those images is adequate. The more we use one of those images to the exclusion of all the others, the less adequate and the more idolatrous that one becomes.
When will we see this, and begin teaching our daughters something besides Lord, Lord?
[Image source: website Parliament and the British Slave Trade, 1600-1807]