Lost in Translation

I read recently of the Bishop of Manchester attempting to use voice recognition technology to draft personal letters to clergy. He discovered that much Church of England jargon was utterly baffling to it. Each reference to Diocese became ‘darkness’. Every curate became ‘Kate’ – heaven forbid! Every benefice, and I like this one more, became ‘benefits’, but missional became ‘miserable’.

That may provide us not only with a wry smile but with some food for thought as to whether we are communicating our Gospel message, God’s good news for our world, clearly enough.

There are plenty of other institutions in which language is used to confuse and obstruct. Our politicians are adept at dodging direct answers; ‘I want to be clear…’ they say, when that is ‘clearly’ the opposite of their intention. The Post Office and Fujitsu clearly sang from the same hymn sheet, saying repeatedly that systems were ‘robust’. The sub-postmasters might choose a rather different word.

The famous beginning of John’s Gospel speaks not of words in general but of ‘The Word’: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.’

Here we have a word which is never false or misleading. God’s Word is spoken in the being of his Son. Jesus comes into our world so God can communicate with us more directly, more clearly, than ever before. Jesus, the human being, is the language in which our creator speaks to us and in Him we have complete harmony of words and reality. Jesus speaks of love and he is love. He speaks of service and he serves. Nothing is lost in this translation.

If we wish to be called by that word ‘Christian’, this is the language in which we must speak, clearly and honestly, while humbly admitting where we’re falling short. Our words must be of a piece with our lives if they are to have any meaning. Through us then, the Word can continue to speak, in our own age, to our own troubled times; that Word that is a light shining in the darkness and which the darkness will never overcome.

Revd Kate McFarlane