How many of you use social media? What do you use?
If any of you are staring blankly at me, wondering to what in the world I am referring, fear not. You are likely the only ones here who will survive if there is a robot uprising because you’re not a slave to a smart phone.
As for me, I will likely be joining the rest of you, diligently working for our robot overlords. I currently get much of my news from my Twitter feed. And Facebook seems to suffice for connecting online with family and friends… at least until somebody annoys me with some inane post. That usually allows me to spend at least 30 seconds looking at posts. Finally, I might watch an occasional YouTube video, such as live-stream an RPI hockey game, and I’m good to go.
If you use Twitter or Instagram, you are probably familiar with seeing a Tweet or post that includes a hashtag or two. Even if you don’t use those platforms, you’re familiar with the symbol. Except you probably call it a pound sign or a number sign. Or maybe a tic-tac-toe board.
But by simply putting a hashtag in front of a word, or a series of words, without any spaces, it becomes an easy way to share and search for a specific idea, concept, event, or activity. You can simply use your computer or phone to click on a hashtag and see what others are saying about it.
You can share what you are feeling: #Joyful. #Sad. Or what you are doing: #AtChurch. Most of the time, hashtags are short: just one or two words. Sometimes they can be long. If you’re not careful, they can be too long.
Creating one can get complicated. For example, take the title of this sermon. I wasn’t sure if I should title it “Hashtag Christianity,” (no hashtag), or #Christianity, or what I eventually chose: #HashtagChristianity.
The best ones are original, relatively short, descriptive and witty. Let’s see if we can come up with a few as we talk more about being called as Christians.
Christ was called
First, we recognize that Jesus was called to a role prophesied long before his birth. He was destined to be the Messiah.
Remember Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Jesus was called before birth. Both his earthly parents were visited by an angel to declare his impending arrival. After Jesus was born, angels sang his praises to local shepherds who ran to see the baby. Later, a star guided others who brought gifts to the young Jesus. His arrival as Messiah was not a big secret!
As referenced in our scripture reading this morning, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, who called Jesus, “…the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
Matthew 3:16-17 also tells the story:
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Most of the Gospels are focused on just three years of Jesus’ life. During that time he performed miracles, welcomed children, healed the sick, challenged the religious leaders of the day, fed thousands with only handfuls of food, taught in the Synagogue, and demonstrated forgiveness.
Jesus was called to give his life for us, in a most difficult manner. In Gethsemane, he desperately prayed to God the Father, asking for this burden to be lifted. Yet, he faced it, died for our sins, and was raised from the dead three days later. Victory!
The Disciples were called
Let’s quickly talk about the disciples.
We aren’t limited to having only Jesus as an example. His disciples provide great stories, as well. Just as we read this morning, they started by becoming followers of Jesus by recognizing him as the Messiah. They weren’t military leaders or royalty. They were ordinary men. Many of them were simple fishermen. They became followers of Christ.
But they, like us, were not perfect. This is why they are such good examples for the rest of us. They made big mistakes. Just like us.
On the eve of Jesus’ death, most of them ran away. Peter snuck in, hung out near the fire. Kind of brave. Yet, he ended up denying Jesus three times that night, even after Christ predicted he would do so.
After the resurrection, Jesus had a “sit down and chat” moment with Peter. Jesus forgave Peter. If he did so for Peter, he will certainly forgive us for our shortcomings.
But these disciples, who were caught off guard by Jesus’ death and resurrection, they became the Apostles. They became the leaders of the church. They took this story and shared it worldwide. Without their efforts, I wonder what Christianity would look like today.
We are called
Of course, all of these hashtags are great examples for us, because we are called to believe. Arguably, the most well-known verse of the Bible says:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
We are called to a relationship. Not only do we ask Christ to be our savior, we also ask him to reside in our hearts, to be a part of our lives.
We are called to learn and grow. Whether we are new Christians, or are a lifelong follower of Christ, we need to spend time in our Bibles, and with our heads bowed in prayer and meditation.
Finally, we are forgiven and called to brush ourselves off after failing. We are called to repent, to turn away from our sin.
1 John 1:9 reminds us:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
As we wrap up today, you might find yourself so annoyed with hashtags that you’ll describe yourself as “hash-mad.” When I stop speaking, you’ll be “hash-glad,” and if a five-year old challenges you to a game of tic-tac-toe, you will probably run away screaming about the ills of social media.
Even so, I hope that you will remember that we are called to do much more than just declare ourselves as a #Christian.
We are #CalledToAction.
What hashtag describes your thoughts now?
Hashtag or no hashtag, will people know that we are Christians?