So there I was at Costco, eating the $1.50 Coke and hot dog combo...
I was alone; no companion to talk with. To pass the time, I read the labels of my recent purchases. Cheese, coffee, milk. Nothing too exciting about the cheese or coffee. But the milk! The milk...
I skimmed the label (pun intended) to the bottom corner. There I found a familiar text. Hebrew! A word I had never seen. I did, however, recognize the letters. Slowly, I sounded them out:
Who knew milk could be kosher? But that did not concern me. My immediate interest had little to do with this word, and everything to do with my ability to recognize and interpret it.
I suddenly became very aware of myself. Part of me wanted to stand up and anounce to the crowd "Look, everybody, I can translate this little Hebrew word! Look at me! Aren't you amazed!?" Seriously, how many people at YOUR local Costco can translate Hebrew on a whim?
My pride with this momentous acheivement soon waned. No one seemed to care about my triumph. No one even noticed. And what if they had? Surely some would have been interested in my astute interpretation, if for nothing more than trivia.
I endured three years of seminary. 84 hours of graduate study; 15 dedicated specifically to Greek and Hebrew. And for what good? To enable me to decipher an overlooked branding on a label that apparently only good Jewish people read anyway.
I desire desperately to provide more to the world than mere trivia.
I hated the countless hours of vocabulary memorization and textual translation required of me in seminary. I swore I would never use these skills. After all, I am "just" a youth minister, right? Leave language study to the preachers and missionaries of the world.
And yet, there is something more to these languages than the language itself. Our Old Testament comes to us through ancient Hebrew texts. The language of Moses, David, Solomon. These are my forebears; my family. Their story is my story. My story. Even today, removed by place, time, and language, I am just as much a part of this ongoing narrative.
This is nothing trivial.
To be a child of God, an agent of reconciliation - such a calling is far from trivial. If only I can live into this calling. If only I can instill a love and appreciation for this heritage in the young people with whom I work. If only we can embrace our kinship to the Hebrew people, not as legendary icons, but as gradmothers and grandfathers in our spiritual family tree. From this perspective, there is something uniquely special about reading the language Moses read. To do so is to try on one of my grandafthers favorite jackets; to cook with my grandmothers dutch oven.
My familiarity with the Hebrew language is casual at best. I'm really quite challenged with the Biblical languages. My study had a purpose, to be sure. But for me, the benefit often comes infrequently, catching me off guard as it did today.
As I reflect on my lunch this afternoon, one thought strikes me most profoundly:
Today, though some mystical means, I had lunch with Moses.
(To Doctors Hamilton, Ashlock, Granberg, Willis and Childers: Thank you for your patience with me. Thank you for your grace and mercy. Thank you for enriching my life through language study. Thank you for sharing your faith.)