Once I had the great privilege of meeting a woman who was an interpreter at the United Nations building in New York. She fluently spoke more than seven languages and was contracted to be able to simultaneously translate at least three of them for the international meetings held all the time at the United Nations. It was one of those moments that I felt thoroughly in awe. Learning languages has never come easily for me and the idea of being able to listen in one language and speak the same words out simultaneously in a different language, well, to me that seems incredible.
The other day I was having a conversation with a parishioner when it struck me. In a way, that is exactly what I do in order to be able to listen to some ministers in other churches. And, it is what I often do even when singing hymns in my own church.
Here, we sing the hymns because they are beautiful, the words flow, the message is sincere, and we respect the traditions out of which they have grown. While there are some hymns that I definitely steer clear of, the militaristic sounding ones for instance, that call for us to, “take up arms for Christ.” I still understand, when I hear them, the power they suggest it takes to stand up for what one believes. “Marching as to war” speaks to the struggle of owning one’s beliefs in the face of disagreement and ridicule. I would never say that we have been, “washed in the blood of the lamb and our sins cleansed for all eternity.” I do believe that Jesus’ death paved the way for a new message of compassion and togetherness for all people, and to me, when I hear the first; it is simultaneously translated into the latter.
There are many phrases, words, and messages shared and taught by many ministers which I find I must listen to with the ears of an interpreter.
Jesus as God incarnate (in the flesh) = Jesus lived what the followers envisioned as the message of a loving compassionate God.
Jesus died for our sins = Jesus died sharing a message that leads us away from separateness and towards togetherness.
Resurrection from the dead = The message of Jesus lives on forever.
God, The Father Almighty = Love and compassion lead us and guide us in all things.
Creator of Heaven and Earth = The essence of all that is good and right and just.
GOD = that which we worship.
Christ / Savior = The message that lives on and guides us to wholeness.
Communion of Saints = unity of all people.
Resurrection of the body = ‘The body’ is the sum total of all the followers of faith and it lives to be shared with others so that all people have the opportunity for a new beginning.
Life everlasting = the permanence of love and compassion in the world.
So if Jesus was the great unity builder and sin is “that which separates”, then yes, the great unity builder lived to free us from that which separates. It is simple, logical, and quite reasonable. Jesus’ message brings us together in acceptance. All we need is a simultaneous translator and we can all worship together in one place!