“X” is for Christ (March 18, 2013)

…Opening To…

Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new. (John Donne)

…Listening In…

From Paul, called by God’s will to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, and from Sosthenes our brother. To God’s church that is in Corinth: To those who have been made holy to God in Christ Jesus, who are called to be God’s people. Together with all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place— he’s their Lord and ours! Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:1-3; context)

…Filling Up…

This Lent, we are exploring our faith by running through the alphabet. Today, “X” is for Christ. Hold on a second, you say. You’re trying to pull a fast one, you say. I promise, I’m not. I needed a word that begins with “X,” and Christ is one – just not in English. In Greek, Christ looks like this: Χριστος. That first letter is the Greek letter “Chi,” which has adorned many a fraternity house, including the one I frequented in college but never joined.

In the early church, the first two letters of “Christ” became a sort of unofficial symbol for Christianity. The “Chi-Rho” was written with the “Rho” (which looks more like a modern “p” than “r”) inscribed within the “X.” In the year 313, these two letters had a hand in converting the Roman Empire to Christianity. The soon-to-be emperor Constantine received a vision telling him to draw the Chi-Rho on the shields of his troops. He did so, won the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, and signed the Edict of Milan soon after. This edict allowed Christians to practice their religion openly within the Empire, which formally adopted Christianity as the official religion several decades later.

That history lesson aside, the word “Christ” serves as both name and title for Jesus, in the same way that folks in the Middle Ages took their profession as their surname (Smith, Miller, Fletcher, Carter etc). “Christ” means “messiah” or “chosen one.” But in the popular view of the day, Jesus would never have been the person cast to fill this role, considering he was a peace activist, not a military hero. The latter was what the people expected. But it’s not what they got, sort of like when you opened up this Devo and expected a word that starts with X.

In the convention of the day, Jesus’ last name would have been “Bar-Joseph” (son-of-Joseph) or “of Nazareth.” But over time, his identity as messiah overrode his origin and his upbringing. In the same way, our identity is informed by our origin and upbringing, but it is not enslaved to them. We can find our roles; hopefully, these roles will resonate with God’s call in our lives. And then, that’s how people will know us.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you breathe identity into me and call me into your service. Help me to claim the person you would have me be so I can be the best servant I can be. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, enlivened by your word, sustained by your grace, and filled with your love.

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