of gathering for worship and not singing

At a recent gathering of the state-wide council of our church, we were invited to sing a song during the opening worship sessions that I found I could not sing. I've been pondering why.

The song was a song about the 'victor's crown'. So first up, I was resistant: I find the imagery and language depicting Jesus as a warrior king, victorious soldier, difficult. It feels to me discordant with the story that shows Jesus resisting violence peacefully - i.e. deliberately not fighting. I don't recall in the stories of the disciples encountering Jesus resurrected any hint that they experienced him as a victorious solider returning from battle, wielding sword and shield. He seems to have been as he always was, a peaceful presence, healing influence, personification of love.

In the chorus of this song is the line, 'he has overcome, he has overcome the world.' Here I was bemused, confused, and, frankly, disappointed. Why would Jesus need to overcome the world? Overcome - overpower. I know there is a long history of using the military language for Jesus as a direct contrast to the military might of the Roman Empire. But is it so helpful now? Do we have the same sense of the power of the contrast? Or do we, by continuing this imagery and language, begin to see Jesus on the side of the mighty, the powerful, the rich and successful - and not, as he always was and is and will be, with the lost, the forgotten, the vulnerable? And do we begin to distance ourselves from the lost, the forgotten, the vulnerable - the ones to whom God sends us?
Singing of Jesus overcoming the world, do we paint the world as a pesky problem for God, to be swept away with Divine might? Do we suggest that God has nothing but disdain for all that lives?

My experience of the Holy and the Sacred Story is that God has nothing but love for all that lives, all that God has created.

If Jesus lived among us because of God's love for the world, how can we sing such words of hatred for the world? We are the world. Why would we sing of Jesus overcoming us? 

And with messages of what do we leave behind, what do we lose in order to embrace new life, finally, these words felt discordant with other elements of our gathered worship. I don't want to dismiss alternative experiences of this song; clearly, it holds meaning and is a helpful invitation into worship for others. I mean only to give expression to what I was feeling, honestly reflecting on my experience, and perhaps opening up conversation that is very difficult to have. The music we sing is so personal, it is difficult to critique it; but it is necessary to continue to reflect on how we worship together, and to be honest with each other. So it is that I say, without judgement, but with honesty, that from this experience, I was left feeling disconnected, confused, and disappointed.


Christa said…
I too was unable to sing this song or sing only a few words like 'hope' and 'Jesus' which made the song very disjointed! Thank you for your reflections.
Anonymous said…
Interesting. There are 21 references in the Sacred Story part of New Testament to victors crown, including Jesus being acclaimed King of Jews with a crown of thorns. Now that's a pretty subversive, non-violent way to overcome the "world" in the form of religious powers that forced death,

If the story is sacred then what do we do with the bits that are there even if we personally don't like? You've got me thinking, again, thanks Sarah

Steve Taylor
sarah said…
thanks Steve

we told parts of the Gospel according to John at the Network of Biblical Storytellers' gathering this weekend, and I heard a line about Jesus overcoming the world - and somewhere else, I heard someone (might have been our speaker, Megan McKenna), saying there are two different words in greek for 'world' - which I want to follow up and see if that helps me to work through this idea of Jesus 'overcoming' the world, and what 'world' it is that he might be overcoming ... also might be worth thinking about 'overcoming' and whether it is indeed meant to be 'overpowering' ... I think much of my discomfort on this occasion was the repetitiveness of it ... yes, lots to think about!!

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