[May 1 I’ll begin a new sermon series – Built to Last: How the Church Can Thrive in Today’s Culture. “Call me Christian” begins the series.]
Did you have a nickname growing up? When I was in college, I wound up in the advanced Solfeggio class. [A musical scale… Think of the do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti- do song Julie Andrews taught the children in The Sound of Music.] I’m still not sure how I got put in that class. Lots of my fellow students had perfect pitch. I didn’t. I really struggled. It earned me a nickname through the entirety of my years in music school: “Ti-Fa Tracey.” So pervasive was its use that it became my email address: tifatracey.
Names mean a great deal to us. If we consider ourselves disciples of Jesus, we name ourselves Christians. Christian is a term put to extensive use in our country. It’s ironic that a label applied to people who worship a man put to death as an enemy of the state is so tremendously coveted by today’s politicians. In an increasingly diverse world, it seems there is enormous diversity of opinions as to what defines a Christian. In our post-modern American culture, it seems often wed to particular social or political positions.
The Greek form of the word Christian (Christianos) is only found three times in the New Testament and is always used in a negative or derogatory context. (If you’re a Methodist, you might recall that our denominational label was also applied to us by outsiders critical of our religious discipline!) Jesus never actually used the term; but he most certainly names the attitudes and behaviors of those who would define themselves in relation to him. A willingness to love, to serve and even to sacrifice for the good of others seems to be Jesus’ most consistent message. I wonder if that is still what we mean today when we say “Call me Christian.”