Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
August 8th, 2016 by Joel Watts

How do you talk about Jesus 

People talk about Jesus.

Academics do it. Theologians do it. Children do it. Non-Christians do it. Methodists do it. Sometimes.

People talk about Jesus.

But have you ever noticed how someone says the name Jesus?

Sitting through this past Sunday’s children sermon, the wife of the associate pastor delivered one of the sweetest sounds – Jesus. And it struck me. When she speaks about Jesus, it is not as a weapon, or academic conversation, or a theological precept. Rather, when she speaks about Jesus, it is as one who has known the love of God in a deeply personal way.

I am left to wonder how I sound when I speak about Jesus. In days past, preaching thunderously from the fundamentalist pulpit, I don’t imagine “Jesus” sounded all that loving. Now, I hope I speak a better “Jesus.”

Think about how someone says a name of someone they have some affection to. Now, think about how someone says a name of someone they hate. There is a difference in tone. And there is a difference in tone when a name is said of someone from history, or someone unknown to us. But, of the warmest friend, the deepest companion, when that name is said… there is a noted difference in how that sound emerges from the mouth.

And how do we sound online? Yeah, I know… Sounding and online doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I hope you know what I mean.

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).


4 Responses to “How do you talk about Jesus ”
  1. Probably verging on academic, but…
    That brings up a perhaps interesting sidelight. The history and comparison between:
    Judaism and Christianity.
    Old Testament and New Testament.
    YAHWEH (and variations) and Jesus.

    Regarding why the name is not suppose to be said out loud in Judaism? Even to the extent that current English Jewish orthodox writers tend to write G-d instead of God? And then Christianity has no problem at all with saying Jesus or God. Except with the crazy hang-over in the English translation of YAHWEH as LORD and Elohim as Lord or God in our bibles (cultural?), and Jesus as more our “personal” savior – with no name problem. A personal friend would never have his name “un-spoken” by his “friends”.

    Ok. Rambling. But it would be an interesting academic paper to discuss why all this transition from unspoken and unwritten name in Judaism to Jesus/friend in Christianity. (I just read that some Orthodox Jews can’t erase YAHWEH once written). All very confusing. Especially when the Old Testament Genesis has YAHWEH and Adam walking in the Garden of Eden like good buds! God even got Adam a companion (probably a dog), before Adam got Eve as his wife.

    And I don’t think using “The Fall” is a good answer to this. The “Fall” isn’t the ultimate answer of life. Picking fruit against regulations is a poor excuse for separation from the name of God. Anyone with children ought to realize that.

  2. Tom McCann says

    Excellent thought Joel. Something we should all think about.

  3. Ouch?!?! Is this the place where someone stopped preaching and started meddling?

  4. There’s Within My Heart a Melody

    The United Methodist Hymnal Number 380
    Text: Luther B. Bridgers
    Music: Luther B. Bridgers

    Tune: SWEETEST NAME, Meter: 97.97 with Refrain

    1. There’s within my heart a melody
    Jesus whispers sweet and low:
    Fear not, I am with thee, peace, be still,
    in all of life’s ebb and flow.

    Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
    sweetest name I know,
    fills my every longing,
    keeps me singing as I go.

    2. All my life was wrecked by sin and strife,
    discord filled my heart with pain;
    Jesus swept across the broken strings,
    stirred the slumbering chords again.

    3. Though sometimes he leads through waters deep,
    trials fall across the way,
    though sometimes the path seems rough and steep,
    see his footprints all the way.

    4. Feasting on the riches of his grace,
    resting neath his sheltering wing,
    always looking on his smiling face,
    that is why I shout and sing.

    5. Soon he’s coming back to welcome me
    far beyond the starry sky;
    I shall wing my flight to worlds unknown;
    I shall reign with him on high.

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