A couple of weeks ago, I was delivering yet another boring Sunday sermon. The final part of it included a story about a grandfather talking to his grandson. The grandfather was a member of the Cherokee tribe of Native American Indians. Only a few days later, I learnt that one of my parishioners had heard the word ‘turkey’ instead of ‘Cherokee’ – and had wondered why a turkey was talking about two wolves living and fighting within it. The parishioner had only realised her mistake when she read my sermon online! I felt it was definitely my fault, though, as my wooden tongue struggles to pronounce words in English in the right manner.
‘At various times in the past and in various different ways God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our own time, the last days, he has spoken to us through his son.’ That’s the beginning of the biblical Letter to the Hebrews and of today’s second reading. It’s a beautifully crafted sentence, proclaiming that God has never tired of his attempts to talk to humanity; on the contrary, He’s been looking for different ways and approaches in order to be heard. The Incarnation of his Son was God’s ultimate utterance, His most direct and the most straightforward. ‘[Jesus] is the radiant light of God’s glory and the perfect copy of his nature.’ In Jesus, we are given the deepest insight into God’s love. It’s seemed to be working, as the Christian faith has spread across and around the globe against all odds.
And yet God remains an impenetrable mystery to many, and that number seems to be increasing nowadays; it certainly seems to be in the UK. Multiple surveys, studies and polls present various reasons for such a significant change in people’s religious attitudes. However, after a few recent referenda and elections here and there, we know how far off the mark the polls can be. In my limited experience – and I don’t claim to have extensive specialised knowledge – most people still hold a need for a kind of spiritual aspect to their lives that for generations has been provided by organised religion. So, I’d risk advancing the claim that modern people in general are not less spiritually-minded than they used to be; but that the ‘language’ we use in the Church has become outdated, and therefore unintelligible to modern people, and consequently meaningless. Think about a situation with a TV signal; to the human ear it’s inaudible, it’s non-existent, it’s totally absent. It means nothing to us in that form. But when decoded with the right equipment it provides us with an abundance of sensations in the form of sound and pictures, not to mention the range of emotional content they relay.
Let’s assume that I can deliver an excellent, interesting and powerful sermon (it’s a purely theoretical assumption – it’s not going to happen!); if I delivered it in Polish, you just wouldn’t get it. That’s why I’ve made the effort to speak your native language. There are still people out there who cannot grasp what I say – it shows how inefficient my efforts have been. Yet such a failing shouldn’t stop me from trying. It’s the same story with you; “try, try, and try again” to find new and effective ways to testify to the people around you that God never ever gets tired of loving each and every one of us.