pretending not to speak english

Our oldest grandchild entered French immersion kindergarten this month. She was telling me about it last week when I asked: "Does Madame Peggy speak any English?" "Oh, no", she replied, "but I think she is just pretending not to speak English". It hasn't taken long for our young learner to realize that the teacher understands every word that she and her classmates say in English even though she always replies in French. Slowly but surely the class will learn to echo their teacher and to learn a whole new way of constructing speech. This helps me re-imagine my vocation as a minister. I once thought of myself as a translator, undertaking the bridge work of traveling back and forth between two language worlds in order to make the gospel relevant. My work was to speak an ancient story in such a way that it made sense in the modern world. I was trying to make things as clear and easy to understand as possible. But I no longer imagine my vocation in this way. Now I think that my daily work is akin to that of a language immersion teacher who consistently speaks using the peculiar grammatical rules and vocabulary called "Christian" or "gospel". Sure, the congregation has many folk who do not know this odd language well and who continue to speak languages such as "Canadian" and "Western" and "modern", to name a few. I hope that over time the congregation echoes back the peculiar speech and life that is announced and embodied in worship Sunday by Sunday. My life's work is to become such a proficient speaker of the gospel that a newcomer might take awhile to come to the conclusion that the pastor "is just pretending not to speak Canadian".

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