I am thinking in words. I am writing words. You are reading words. You are ‘hearing’ them – thinking them and about them. This is a way of communication. You know what I am thinking or feeling – what I want to say. Can I communicate what I feel, my perceptions, in fact can I even think them if I don’t have the words? What do we do when we don’t have the words? I suppose we approximate and try and get as close to the – and that’s the point – to the reality or its word as possible.
Thus to know more words opens for us a bigger world. And in the area of translation we discover that words are not equal across the languages. Despite the conglomeri-zation (Is that a word? Do you understand it?) of English into many languages, there are words in other languages with no direct equivalents in English. The French ‘dépaysement’ means the unsettling feel of being a for-eigner, of not being in one’s home country. ‘Itsuarpok’ is an Inuit word for the feeling of anticipation that leads you to keep looking outside to see whether anyone is coming. In German there is ‘Schadenfreude’ – literally ‘harm-joy’ describing the pleasure one has at an-other’s misfortune – and ‘Zerrissenheit’ which means torn or broken-to-pieces-hood or more gener-ally disunity or (inner) conflict. Such words, when known, enrich our vocabularies and lives.
It is interesting on the Day of Pentecost that the crowds didn’t all of sudden understand one com-mon language and thus create an official language for Christianity. There is no official language in Christianity for it is the task of the speaker to make language clear to be understood – as the crowd in Jerusalem discovered. ‘And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language … we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”’ (Acts 2:7,8,11 ESV)?
Martin Luther would describe the Church as a ‘mouth house’ not a ‘pen house’ and would point out that Jesus didn’t command things to be written down but to be proclaimed. God – the Word made flesh – is a God who speaks. The Holy Spirit, we believe, has given us in the written Word of God, the messages we need to remember and empowers each generation – particularly preachers and teachers – to say powerful words through which God continues to speak, act, and do what is said.
What shocks each generation – speakers and hearers – is that God will only be found hidden (and that isn’t a play on words) where we least expect him – in suffering and on the cross and all things leading to it. Nevertheless this message no matter the language is the message of life.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who be-lieve. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:18-25 ESV)
In any language! — GS