So about a week ago I found myself worshiping in a different language. On the Sunday after we arrived in Haiti, we attended a worship service at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The service was spoken and sung entirely in Haitian Creole. The extent of my Haitian Creole is a few numbers and colors.
As I sat and listened intently, I was determined to find something that sounded familiar. I kind of knew where we were in the liturgy, so I recognized when they said “Amen” and I heard Jesus mentioned a few times. But that was pretty much it. It was a lengthy sermon, so my mind began to wander a little. I began to wonder if the Gospel is still the power of God for salvation if you can’t understand the language it’s being preached in. Can faith come from hearing the word of Christ in a different language?
I immediately thought to myself, “Of course not.” And just as quickly I thought, “Wait a minute. Is that always true?” What about absolution? Was I forgiven even though I didn’t actually understand the words of absolution the pastor spoke? This is a mind-bending question.
The converse is just as intriguing. Speaking the gospel in the language everyone understands doesn’t guarantee my audience will hear or grasp the message. I know people have sat through my sermons and wondered, “What in the world is he talking about?”
So, did I receive God’s gifts of grace that Sunday in Haiti? I believe I did, and I am thankful. But I need to do a little more thinking about this.