Many of you know that this week LPC has been hosting four members of Igreja Presbiteriana no Jardim América, a Presbyterian Church in Brazil. The purpose of the trip – as with a similar trip Becky, Marcos Ortega, and I took in September, 2013, is to continue a process of discernment as to whether God might be calling us to some form of mission partnership – working together for common good and in a common cause. We know that the common cause has something to do with the children and young people of the favela, or slum, at the edge of which the church is located. We know that is has to do with sharing the Gospel in word and deed. We know that among those things that might contribute to the common good is praying together, studying together, working together; loving one another as a sign to the whole world that we are his humble disciples.
The discernment will continue.
But the week has got me thinking about communication. They say that the average English speaker has about 20,000 words in his or her working vocabulary. We understand and use those 20,000 words as we tell one another about what we are doing, what we have experienced, our dreams and our hopes, our disappointments and our hurts. We use those words to express joy and sorrow, faith and love. And as those same words flow into our ears and our hearts and our minds we come to understand our world, our neighbors, our loved ones, and our God.
20,000 words. I’d guess my working Portuguese vocabulary may be 3,000 words on a good day. Maybe a few more.
It has been a wonderful week with our Brazilian friends, and we have loved being with them. Our conversations have been good, sometimes profound. Laughter and tears have flowed. We have communicated. But our ability to communicate has been hampered by our lack of a common vocabulary. Instead of using the one just right word we wish to use to express a thought or an emotion, Becky and I have searched for a way to say the same thing with our very limited vocabulary. Our Brazilian friends have had to use simple words when they wanted to use a better word to say what they wanted to say.
God’s vocabulary is unlimited. He knows every language and, we are told, his Spirit intercedes when language doesn’t work. God’s vocabulary is a million words that speak faith, hope, and love to the deepest places of our lives and our world.
When my Brazilian friends speak freely of joy and in sorrow, their dreams and their disappointments, I sometimes get lost. I don’t know a sufficient number of their words to understand what they are saying. How can I hope to understand a God who speaks with a million words?
The Gospel is the story of how God’s Word became flesh and made his home among us. A million words lived out with us and for us. Love spoken from the Cross and the Empty Tomb. God’s vocabulary.