March 8, 2009- A Text Message From God

My daughter convinced me to add text messaging to my phone service, which gave me the idea for the Time for Children lesson during worship this morning. I started by asking the kids if they knew any texting abbreviations, and of course they did. They rattled off LOL (Laughing Out Loud) and OMG (shyly translated as Oh My Gosh by kids who are sitting on the dais of a church). I had a few more on a poster board which they also recognized: BFF - Best Friends Forever, L8R - Later, and BRB - Be Right Back.

Then we moved on to the next line on the poster: MVEMJSUN(P). Scott recognized the acronym as My Very Educated Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pizzas and as the old way to remember the order of the planets orbiting the sun. He was correct, and I pointed out we’d need a new sentence since Pluto got demoted. We decided My Very Educated Mother Just Sent Us Noodles would do.

We often use a sentence or symbol to help learn lists and lessons. During Lent, it was a common practice for people to spend the 40 days of the season studying for baptism on Easter. One symbol used as a study aid was a special acronym using the word “fish,” spelled IXTHYS in anglicized ancient Greek on the next line of the poster. Each letter of the word stood for a special lesson on the core beliefs of all Christians:

I (iota) Iesous = Jesus
X (chi) Christos = Christ
TH (theta) Theos = God’s
Y (upsilon) Yios = Son
S (sigma) Soter = Savior

The fish was a way to remember the lesson “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, our Savior.” I added a fish outline around the letters on the poster. Drawing the fish symbol was a quick way to remember the lesson. Legend also says the symbol served as a recognition code in the ancient world, in the times and places when it was dangerous to be a Christian. When you met someone and weren’t sure if it was safe to talk about your faith, you could draw a curved line in the dust of the road. If the stranger added another curved line to complete the fish, then you knew it was safe to talk.

And finally, the closing lesson. At the bottom of the poster was the following acronym: OMG – JCGSS!

It may not read as a fish, but it still stands for Jesus Christ, God’s Son, our Savior. God’s action on the cross, starting at one particular place and time, with a small number of witnesses, has spread around the world. Starting from a small worship service in a small church in a small town, we’ll see if we can spread JCGSS around the world. We’ll use JCGSS in our e-mail signatures, text messaging, and on social networking websites. Each time someone asks what it means, it gives us an opportunity to start the faith discussion and share the Good News.