After yesterday’s frothy coffee episode I have gone to the dark side this morning and gone for some instant cappuccino. It is not the same quality but it is wet and relatively safe to make. I could make a comment about counterfeit or pseudo faith (where we go through the motions) but that is not what struck me as I made the coffee. (Thankfully after yesterday I was not struck by coffee either!).
|not the cup of cappuccino coffee I just made!|
I was struck by the thought that it was not THAT many years ago when cappuccino coffee was only available in the poshest, most expensive restaurants. Now it is available as instant coffee! And the word ‘cappuccino’ is one that most people know. If you go into your nearest costabuck coffee shop you will find an almost bewildering array of different coffee styles available. I want to try them, but am also worried that I might not like them so I usually stick with what I know I like. (Again, a possible analogy there, but I am going to ignore it and press on with the thought).
What I reflected today was that language is very fluid. A couple of days ago my daughter remarked that she was bored. My son and I tried to enliven her experience by suggesting a variety of different boards:
was she narrative? storyboard
was she made of potato? chipboard
was she running round in circles? circuit board
was she under the water? diving board
were people walking all over her? floorboard
was she a humble and poor peasant? serfboard (sorry!)
You get the idea. Not sure it relieved the boredom but we enjoyed it. But what I realised was how the word ‘board’ has so many different applications and some of them are very recent. 30 years ago most people might not have known what a circuit board was. The language we use is constantly evolving and developing to keep pace with changes in society and technology.
When I was writing a while ago, trying to describe how young people are confident around technology I inadvertently hit two keys on the keyboard simultaneously and ‘technoliterate’ became ‘technoloiterate’. I decided I liked the new word, as it described the way that technology is an everyday part of young people’s lives and they ‘hang around’ with it. I have yet to see any evidence that my new word is in common parlance, but perhaps one day it will make it into the Oxford English Dictionary.
We need to be fluid too in the way that we follow Jesus. Not changing our core task or our core beliefs, but prepared to express them in new ways, prepared to experience them in different ways. Jesus took images from his culture and explained what following him looked like in that culture. The parable of the Lost Sheep might well be the parable of the Lost Hamster (see a couple of blogs back) in a suburban culture where shepherding is a lost art. The idea of a camel going through the eye of a needle might become driving a 4×4 down a rabbit hole.
But it’s not just about taking images from our culture and applying them. It is also recognising that we need to be adaptable and change. In a world where gender-exclusive language offends I believe it is right to use gender-inclusive language where appropriate in church. In a world where going to church is an unusual event for many or most people, I believe it is right for us to be attractive and engaging beyond the walls of our churches on Sundays. It is right to be high on fun and low on content so that people will stop and be interested, rather than harangue-ing them with the full gospel as they accelerate past street preachers.
One of my favourite examples of irrelevant communication of truth was when I was walking down a street in Exeter and a street preacher was proclaiming, “Jesus Christ is the propitiation for your sins!” No doubting the truth of that, but sadly I don’t think many people received the truth that day in a way that was relevant to them!
It’s not actually that difficult. The beauty of Jesus’ plan for sharing his good news is that it is truth through personality. It is incarnational. He just wants us to be ourselves with other people. Or rather, he wants us to be the new, improved ‘ourselves’ that we are becoming as his Spirit works within us. Back to being free samples of Jesus, I guess!