Of course this past Friday was St. Patrick’s Day, and that evening we took the family to Good Shepherd Catholic Church for their annual Friday Fish Fry they do every Friday during Lent. We go every year: it supports a good cause and you get a lot of food - $25 for a family of 4 - in a fun family-friendly setting.
This year, however, we immediately noticed how small the crowd was. For while normally on Fridays during Lent there’s a line out the door and up the street, this past Friday there was no evidence outside the church that anything was happening. “Is it closed tonight?” we asked each other as we walked up. “What’s going on?” But we walked in the door and it was open, though the line was much shorter - it started at the counter(!) - and we went through and everything was as usual only the crowd was much smaller than normal. Later a group of young people sat down next to us and we overheard them talking about why more people weren’t there: apparently the Archbishop gave out a special dispensation to eat meat on St. Patty’s Day, so when they could have corned beef & cabbage nobody wanted fish!
Afterwards I asked Ezekiel how he would feel if he had to get a special dispensation to eat meat and he said, “No way!” For I don’t know about you, but as a Disciple we’re part of a movement that cast off the idea of obeying any religious authority long ago, so the idea of eating meat or not eating meat based on a ban or dispensation seems really strange. Because the truth is we come from a tradition that for a long time was very ignorant of the history of the ancient church - Catholicism and Orthodoxy - and as such we didn’t observe seasons like Lent. Birthed on the American frontier our group wanted to claim we had the pure unadulterated faith of the Bible and as such we weren’t interested in saints or liturgy or anything like that.
However, back in the 1960’s around the same time that our church adopted the “chalice” emblem we’ve used as our denominational logo for almost 50 years the church started changing its practice around these kinds of things. For in an effort to be more ecumenical, the Disciples took on new practices such as observing the seasons of Lent and Advent, something that would have been unheard of a generation before. Likewise, though Disciples still do not venerate the saints, we took on as a part of our logo the image of the “St. Andrew’s Cross” - the cross that looks like an “X” - to represent the Scottish heritage of our ancestors from the church in Scotland (So it is that while we just celebrated St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, as Disciples we’re turning now to recognize St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland; for just like the “clover” represents St. Patrick the “X” represents St. Andrew!).
And if you didn’t know, St. Andrew is the same Andrew who was a disciple, the brother of Simon Peter and one of the first disciples Jesus called - the same Andrew my brother Andrew was named after, in fact - and in the end we know that Andrew was crucified by the Romans on an X-shaped cross.
However, legend has it that in 345 AD a Greek monk known as Regulus was ordered in a vision to take a few relics of St. Andrew “to the ends of the earth” for safe-keeping. Taking with him “a tooth, a kneecap, arm and finger bones,” Regulus traveled by sea to eventually come ashore on the coast of Fife at a settlement which is now the town of St. Andrews. Then, in 832 AD, St. Andrew was said to have appeared in a vision to a Scottish king the night before a key battle, and on that day an X-shaped cross was seen in the air above the battle where the Scottish king was victorious. The St. Andrew’s cross was subsequently adopted as the national flag of Scotland.
So that’s the history of this image as represented in the Disciples Chalice (designed 50 years ago by Bruce Tilsley, a member of this church). But the reason we’re talking about this is because this is the final sermon of the series on our new logo and we’ve positioned this cross right at the center of the logo - hence Central Christian Church(!) - so as members of this church we need to be able to talk about what this means in regards to who we are.
For as I said a couple of weeks ago in the introduction to this series: I like what we’ve done with the St. Andrew’s cross to make it come across more like a typical cross, because it’s so obscure that when people from outside our church see the “chalice” emblem - the cup with the X-cross through it - and ask about our church, they’ll often say to me, “Well, we know you don’t believe in drinking, but what else don’t you believe?” You’ve heard me joke that we should put a “No Smoking” symbol up next to it, but the point is that if a church logo is to be a tool for evangelism then using the Chalice hasn’t been the best way to reach out to people who don’t already know who we are. (For those who already recognize Disciples, yes, but denominational brands are less and less recognizable to people outside of our churches).
So our new logo takes this St. Andrew’s cross “X” image, stylizes it to be more contemporary, then positions it at the exact center of the “C” image that represents the open circle of our welcome, as we discussed last week. Thus we have a symbol that describes who we are as a church & who we are as Christians in a way that we can talk about organically, creating what becomes a mission statement for who we are as Central Christian Church.
For instance, you ask me about the symbol that I’m wearing on my pin or my t-shirt or the magnet on the back of my car, what have you, and I get the chance to say: “Well, the cross at the center of the circle, represents how Jesus is at the center of our lives, and what’s more its a St. Andrew’s cross, representing our church’s Scottish heritage. Also the red Colorado “C” recognizes Central as one of Colorado’s oldest churches, established 1873, and what’s more it represents our commitment as Christians to be the open arms of welcome inviting people into relationship with Christ.”
You see how easy it is to use this as a tool for witness and evangelism? Of course, we first have to be willing to talk with somebody else about Jesus(!) but the hope is that this logo will make it easier for us to do so. For as our scripture I chose for today’s lesson says: “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power … and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”
And what that means, for those with ears to hear, is that the message of Jesus is the most important thing. Because if you want to talk about being real, or about being genuine: when Jesus Christ is truly the motivation at the center of who we are and what we do and why we do what we do, then that means we are being real in that our reason for being in relationship with people is not self-serving but other-serving - Christ-serving - and these days people are very savvy to anything less than an honest motivation.
For instance, I heard an story the other day about a lady named (I think) Patricia Jackson, who first had a successful career in business and then later in life decided that she was being called to be a teacher. So she got her teaching credential and immediately applied to teach in the toughest school in East Los Angeles where she was from, a place where no teacher wanted to go because the students had a reputation for being disrespectful.
When the first class started, Ms. Jackson passed out the usual forms where the students filled out their names and addresses, and as they filled them out she walked down the aisles looking over their shoulders at the names. Then she said, “Okay, we’re going to start off this year with a test,” and the students groaned, then she said, “but the test is not for you but for me.” And at that the students ears picked up. “The test,” she continued, “is if I can call each of you by name, on the very first day, each and every one. And if I can’t do it,” she said, “then all of you will be awarded an automatic ‘A’ on the first real test of the year. But if I can do it … then each one of you will know I care about you enough to start the year knowing you by name.”
It’s like that saying attributed to Theodore Roosevelt that says, “Nobody cares how much you know unless first they know how much you care(!).” For when Christ is at the center of who we are, then when we are relating to other people they will recognize that we are being genuine, that we are being real, and they will respond to us accordingly. Likewise, we will be better able to recognize when people are being real or genuine with us, and the fact is there are a lot of people who are not real or genuine in this world. But like the kids in Ms. Jackson’s class, when somebody is being real with us we instantly pick up on it, so long that is as we ourselves are being real!
Again, how do you know you’re being real? When your motivation are not self-serving but God-serving, or when Jesus Christ is at the center of who you are, even living inside your heart! For again, and as the scripture says: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”* That means that for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see there is nothing that is more important, nothing that is more powerful than the message of God in Jesus Christ and by His Holy Spirit, for this is the source of all power and promise and victory in our lives and in the life that is to come (amen?!). For so long as we have Jesus living inside us it will give us the power to find strength within ourselves as well as to share that message with a hurting world.
*Scripture lesson from 1 Corinthians 1:18,22-25:
“For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. … For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”
Posted on Sun, March 19, 2017
by Canaan Harris