Dylan sang, "The times, they are a' changin. '" David Byrne, riding the same wave, said, "You may ask yourself, How did I get here? '" We all surf it, the wave of cultural change, rushing ahead faster and faster, its pace and intensity surging exponentially with each generation, threatening to wash us out and leave us behind. In the blink of an eye, or of a decade, the prevailing sensibilities, values and vocabulary can so diverge that those looking forward at the ones looking back (and vice versa) become unrecognizable to each other. And so each generation must revisit the puzzle: Who am I? How did I get here? Where do I start?
Isaiah, anticipating Dylan and David, wrote, "The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever." God himself is the only thing in this perpetual motion machine of a universe that never changes. He is a touchstone and a starting place. In his permanence, immutability, steadfastness, and infinity, he is eternally relevant. His truth always applies to every sensibility, value, and vocabulary. The challenge, then, is to have the church speak for God to the world around it using the indigenous dialect, with language, music, symbols, and ideas that are current and understandable.
Fortunately, while long ago the best efforts of men produced only Babel, God is a master of lucidity and translation. When he rained down the Holy Spirit on that group of disciples worshiping and praying, what caught everyone's attention, more than the wind and fire, was relevance:
A crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them (the disciples) speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they (the people) asked: Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?
God was anticipating the plea of the Cure:
Mammnnarghaassstmmetc Speak my language
God wants to speak to you in your native language. He knows the words, symbols, music, and ideas that you will understand. Jesus, in all his interactions, related to people as individuals, avoiding stereotypes, generalizations, and formulas. We want this church to reflect that value, to communicate God's timeless message of love with a relevance rooted firmly in the here and now.