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God’s Word in My Ear – and Yours, Too!

July 11, 2016

Our Sunday began the way it begins for Christians everywhere – with worship. Well, Erika and I actually got up and went for an early morning run on this beautiful Slovak morning. And then we ate breakfast at the MartINN, our home for the week. But then we went to worship, starting our day and our week with God’s people gathered around Word and sacrament.

On the way into worship, we were handed bulletins and hymnals. We were also given listening devices (as shown in the picture). Why? Because we don’t speak Slovak! The listening devices allowed us to hear and participate in worship in our native language, English, as translated by our friend, Bohdan. I’m not entirely sure if he translated the sermon that was given or if he was making it up as he went along, but either way it was a great message. The pastor preached on Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration of Jesus, reminding us that we, like Peter, are now witnesses of these things – witnesses of the love and the power of Jesus Christ.

But I could only become a witness this day because of the witness of our Slovak sisters and brothers in Christ, because of their witness to me. In their commitment to share the good news of Jesus Christ, they had taken the time to acquire and distribute listening devices; some among them had taken the time to learn my language; Bohdan had taken the time to speak the gospel into my ear through the little speaker over my ear. This congregation had put in the time and effort to make sure that I could hear God’s Word, spoken right into my ear.

Which got me thinking, of course. God’s love is for everyone, but we don’t all hear it in the same way. God’s love is universal, but it is also intensely particular. God’s love is for everyone, but it is also for each one. This point was made explicit during worship, when a beautiful little girl was brought to the font for the sacrament of Holy Baptism. The pastor did not say, “Julia, God loves everyone.” The pastor spoke, “Julia, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (I didn’t need to know Slovak to hear that!) In Word and sacrament, the universal love of God for everyone becomes the particular love of God in Christ for each one of us.

As God’s people, we must always be sure that we are not speaking a generic love of God but the particular, passionate love of God revealed in Christ, spoken into each person’s ear in words that they not only hear, but that break open their hearts in understanding so that the gospel may rush in. As God’s people, we need to remember that not everyone is like us; not everyone hears like we do; not everyone feels welcome just because we feel welcome. We are called to learn the language of others, and to speak the universal love of God in the way that each person needs to hear it. After all, knowing that God loves everyone is nice, but knowing that God loves me (and you!) changes everything.


With some of our Slovak friends: Adrian, Natalia, and children.

From → Slovakia 2016

  1. Natalia permalink

    Dave, Erika, others, thanx for being here! Did we already tell you how much we love you? Just in case we did not – love you so much (less than God does – but that is o.k.)! Have a great time, and many stories to share – God bless Grace Lutheran:)

  2. We love y’all, too! It’s so good to be with everyone here in Martin.

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