Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ichthys and the Christian Identity

The Ichthys (Greek for Fish) has long been used as a symbol by Christians who seek to identify themselves to others. While it is used for other purposes as well, it is well known and continues to be used quite widely by those seeking to identify themselves as Christians. For more information, Wikipedia has an informative article at Ichthys.

I have a dear friend who has often said that he refuses to put Christian bumper stickers on his vehicle because he does not want people to associate his driving with Christ. While I have never appreciated the duplicity of his statement, I also have been amazed at the number of Ichthus symbols that I see on the highways and streets and in the parking lots, passing me at speeds that far exceed the speed limit, cutting off other drivers, weaving in and out of traffic, and countless other careless and selfish actions. I have often wanted to take the Ichthus off of the back of the vehicle so as to hand it to the driver while saying, “When you learn to drive like one, put it back on your vehicle.”

Today in the Walmart parking lot I saw a lady push her shopping cart up against the side of the car in the next parking space and then get into her car and drive off. She actually pushed the cart against the side of her neighbor’s car. Surely she knows why this is wrong. Nevertheless this is what she chose to do.

Such actions tell a person’s identity. What we do tells the world what kind of people we are and what thoughts and attitudes possess us. Yes, our displays of thoughts and attitudes declare who we are and who our god is.

I share this because it ties into the Old Testament reading appointed for this past Sunday, the Sixth Sunday after Trinity. While we are more likely to refer to Exodus 20:1-17 as the giving of the Ten Commandments, this is not what Moses calls them when he records them. He calls them the Ten Sayings by which the Lord tells us who we really are. These sayings of the Lord begin by telling us that He is the Lord our God who has brought us out of the house of bondage to live as His holy people. Then He goes on to tell us what this means, explaining what His children look like.

These Ten Sayings set forth for us to observe the identity that He gives to us in connection with the Holy Communion into which He calls us. As we observe His Sayings we realize what God has done and continues to work for us and among us. We also see how this identity can never be ours by our own efforts, but must be given to us from the One who fulfills them.

Truly, when we do not observe these sayings, we forget who we really are. We forget the work of regeneration that the Holy Spirit has worked in us. We forget the new life into which we have been born again. We forget the one who has made all of this our new identity, and then we act as though we were not identified with Him at all. If this continues long enough, we grow accustomed to the blurred focus until finally we ourselves lose the identity which the Lord has declared concerning us.

Through the holy office of the ministry, He continues to call us to remember both who He is and also who we are in connection with Him. This is a continual call to repent and believe the Gospel. When this repentance is worked by God in us, we again rely upon Him and His Sayings as our life and we rejoice in His goodness.

For more on this, you are invited to read or hear the sermon, Exodus 20:1-17 — “And God Spoke All These Words”

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