by The Rev Tom Moffat
There’s the story of the old Shetlander who once upon a time made an epic journey to London. When he returned to Lerwick his friends asked him what London was like. “Och”, he said, ”It’s awfa’ remote.”
When I lived and worked in Ardnamurchan I had a correspondence with Highland Health Board – who were based in the megapolis of Inverness, no less, – and who kept referring to our communities as ‘remote’. I reminded them that to those who lived in Ardnamurchan, it was Inverness that was ‘remote’ and would they kindly moderate their language. Which they kindly did, and thereafter spoke of ‘rural’ rather than ‘remote’.
This idea of the context of language came to mind partly when I was watching the livestream of our General Assembly at the beginning of this month. Of course the Assembly has been available on livestream for a few years now; but what made this one different was the use of video streaming for all commissioners. And I was impressed with the Moderator’s dexterity in dealing with not one, but two, laptops – obviously with different transmissions – and a microphone, as well as an earpiece that relayed messages from the IT people.
What caught my attention in particular was one commissioner who referred to himself as ‘working at the coal face’, and I wondered if that was still an appropriate metaphor for today, when we’re working to keep fossil fuels in the ground. I tried to think what might be a ‘green’ alternative but haven’t yet. Any thoughts?
The other part of reflecting on language then and now came out of our current online Bible Study in Ephesians. In the first week, the word ‘redemption’ troubled some, as it had links, in first century culture, with the buying and selling of slaves. It was seen as an inappropriate way for our understanding of God’s work with us. ‘Liberation’ being a better fit for today, just as, in week two, the idea of ‘separation’ resonated more deeply and widely than ‘sin’. Not everyone necessarily agreed with the suggested changes but we were all engaged in the use of language then and now.
Which language do we speak when we speak of Christ? The language of ‘yesterday’ or the language of ‘now’?