ONE LORD JESUS CHRIST
by Leila Lawler
Is it just an honorific? (Like Mr. Jesus Christ, only more poetic? Possibly more distancing?)
Somewhat irreverently, this word Lord has put me in mind of a brief moment in one of my favorite mystery stories.
Have you ever read Dorothy Sayers’ Busman’s Honeymoon? Well, it’s a little like Downton Abbey on Wodehouse steroids.
The scene is the wedding night of Harriet, mystery writer, and Peter Wimsey, British aristocrat, debonair crime-solver, quondam diplomat/spy, collector of incunabula, player of Bach partitas.
In Strong Poison, he has saved Harriet from conviction in a murder trial. Her gratitude proves an obstacle to their romance (but not fatally so).
This hero is almost (but not quite) too perfect for our conflicted heroine, and now, having been brought, as Bunter (Wimsey’s “man”) says, to the finish line, a dead body has been discovered in the basement of their honeymoon cottage.
The mystery is neither here nor there for my purposes. The moment I want to dwell on is that in which, on her somewhat disrupted, but finally consummated, wedding night Harriet cries, “My Lord!”
Is it an exclamation only? Or is she finally resolving the long difficulty she has had in submitting to his love? He is actually a lord, from an ancient and noble family. Harriet, a self-made woman, naturally chafes at the class distinction, while recognizing that her intellect has finally met its equal in him. In her vows at their wedding, she has said “obey” in a shocking allegiance to the old prayerbook. But she knows that she does not know what this word means to her.
Literally kneeling beside her as the scene opens, Wimsey has already served her, having rescued her from the gallows and subsequently from attack (in Gaudy Night). He has offered her freedom, contrary to his own interest. Now she has married him.
This “Lord” that we profess in the Creed asserts Christ’s Lordship over the world, over history, over every material and spiritual thing, as well as his mastery of our own soul. It reveals the essentially hierarchical nature of creation.
It reveals his masculinity and often, we resist, man and woman alike.
We tend not to want lords and masters because, to give us our due, the earthly ones aren’t universally trustworthy. We fear masculinity because often, it overpowers.
Jesus himself points this out. “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt,” he asserts, in the Gospel of Matthew.
Yes, yes we do know that. We are all too familiar with that immediate sense of being overwhelmed, ridden roughshod over, ignored.
Some cringingly submit to power. To them, mastery and rule are a given. Theirs is only to be ruled, the downtrodden of the earth.
But most of us don’t want to obey or even give way slightly to the attention drawn to the alpha in the room.
We want to be the lord, to lord it over the others.
Either way, submit or rebel, it’s our habit to react; and our habit too is the assumption that all authority is flawed (although contradictorily and somewhat blindly, we don’t apply this assumption to our own authority – our own sense of being right and somehow meant to be in charge of our own destiny – giving it an unexamined pass).
But, what if we could find an authority as trustworthy as Jesus posits (even more than our precious selves)?
What if the we could find an authority that was not only good in every way, and not only seeking our own good, and not only free from any desire to abuse us or hurt our freedom, but also willing to follow up his accurate summation of the worlds’ woe (“they lord it over you”) with this:
“The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Ah, this is different!
Here we have the paradox of the embrace. Submission that elevates! A fruitful unity – a nuptial one!
In Sayer’s book, she captures one instant by the firelight in the hymeneal bedroom, in which the mutual self-giving of the wedding night reveals its glory: The consummation of love. To Harriet’s utter astonishment and against her every expectation, she is overjoyed to submit. And so she cries out with layered meaning her delight in discovering the mastery of servanthood, “My Lord!”
May we receive the Bridegroom in his fullness, the One, Lord, Jesus Christ.
What are your thoughts? What else can we learn from “one Lord Jesus Christ”?
Leila blogs at A href=“http://www.ourmothersdaughters.blogspot.com/”>Like Mother, Like Daughter, maintaining the collective memory to the best of her meager ability. Random thoughts connecting scenes in books she’s read to articles of the Creed are no stranger to her. She has been married for thirty-three years and has seven children and two grandchildren.
Read all the entries in the Blog Series: Credo: Professing the Creed for the Year of Faith.