“I am the vine and you are the branches”–John 15: 5). I have repeated those words hundreds of times over the years as I presided over the Lord’s Table in a number of churches.
A few years ago I was serving in a congregation where I knew many in the community and, quite honestly, some in the congregation would have defined themselves as being “spiritual but not religious.” On more than one occasion I found myself adlibbing a bit at the table by saying, “2000 years ago Jesus said, ‘I am the vine and you are the branches.’ Today he might have put it this way, ‘God is in you and you are in God.’” Same sentiment, different words.
I bring this up as I reflect on the conversations I am having with leaders and members of our congregations around our presbytery. One of the many things that has emerged has been an obvious need to help our churches become bilingual as the gap between the church and the culture grows.
Of course, I am not speaking specifically of learning Spanish or Russian or Somali (although that can’t hurt!). I am talking about learning to share the essence of our gospel story, our faith tradition and our Christian values in language that the surrounding culture can understand. In this case I used the Biblical image of vines and branches and translated it for people who might think of themselves as spiritual but not religious.
But it brings up the point, “Is it our ultimate responsibility to share the gospel story as it is written or is it our responsibility to share the good news as it can be heard?” I believe it is the latter. I believe that saying it is not enough. Having it heard is the ultimate goal. I believe that we are going to have to learn to become bilingual, trilingual and multilingual. I believe our pressing modern question is, “How do we translate the God-speak that we use on Sundays into people-speak the rest of the week?”
Shoot! I just realized that this should have been my Pentecost blog! (Translation to non-religious—the story of Pentecost is when the disciples were given the gifts of multiple languages in order to share the good news with people in a dialect they could hear).
Shalom, Salaam and Peace to you. God bless and good luck.
Presbyter for Vision and Mission (in other words, “the big picture guy”)
When I read the Pentecost story in Acts I am always reminded of the question asked by Walter Wink: Is the miracle of Pentecost a miracle of the mouth or a miracle of the ear? Is it a miracle because the disciples could speak in the language of the people or that the people could hear what the disciples were saying?