Some thoughts on translating the gospel in our culture by Martin Stewart
It seems to me that this is a season for renegotiation with our communities.
If we conduct a wedding or a funeral, we need to attend to the fact that many of those gathered do not share the faith we speak from – some may engage with aspects of it, others will resist it… many will have a prejudicial attitude that we can either reinforce or destabilize.
It does not seem appropriate to me anymore to roll out scriptural passages or make faith statements without some attempt at translating and gently inviting people into a God-filled way of seeing. We can no longer assume people speak or understand our language.
It is a delegate space to manoeuvre in. The opportunities for a gospel conversation are less frequent than they once were. We can blow it instantly by rolling out the cliches, preaching at people, and talking as if we know everything. We have plenty of cliches, many have a long history and need to be put to bed. We have got good at preaching at people who expect us to behave in this manner, but they have become few in number. And, of course, we do not know everything – we only get to see through a mirror dimly – we need to be careful, open, and honest about the space between what is and what will be.
This poem emerged out of an introduction I offered at a recent funeral – the image came from the hills around Makara in Wellington.
we want clarity before the mysteries
but we gain barely a glimpse
a passing shadow
a leaf falling from a tree
some have practiced a life of glimpsing
exhibiting a quiet confidence
insight to what exists in the space between things
knowing enough to know
an unforced word from one of them
can be a small seed of hope
a window to a horizon
a place to set one’s foot