Preparing to preach on Pentecost Sunday I was pondering the people in Jerusalem hearing the Gospel in their own language and came across this in my commentaries:
What language would you speak in your missional location, if you were filled with the Holy Spirit? How might those outside your congregation hear their mother tongue and be welcomed home?
That in the end was the challenge I brought to Fitzroy, as a Session and congregation. For whatever reason, the good news of Jesus is being lost in translation in the world today.
It would be easy to read Romans 10:14, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” and say that therefore we need to preach. Actually what we should maybe draw from it is that we need to get heard.
In 2019 preaching doesn’t get heard the way it did in 1959 or even 1989. Something has shifted and the way the modern western world communicates has changed how people hear. In Uganda I could stand in the middle of Arua and gather a crowd with my preaching. Not so at Corn Market.
The Spirit needs to help us decipher the means to get heard. The visual is so much more important in an image dominated world. Neil Postman in his insightful book Amusing Ourselves To Death helped us see that image dominated learning leads to us being more subjective in our sieving of information.
If we want heard, communication needs to change in response. Actions speak louder than words has never been more true. John’s poetry of the word becoming flesh suggests Jesus was ahead of this but are we?
In the Church we still lean heavily on the preaching, even when we see it getting lost in the translation. We have also got into a habit of our actions contradicting our words.
This week at the Presbyterian General Assembly we voted yet again to remain out of fellowship with our mother Church, the Church of Scotland, because of their more liberal take on the LGBT issue. We refuse to engage with them while at the same time encouraging our political leaders in Stormont to get over their differences and work together. That simply is not getting heard. That is big time lost in the translation.
Holy Spirit come. Give us discernment. Help us communicate in ways that the world around can hear the Gospel in their own cultural language!