While making breakfast the other day, I was drawn to the TV as a big-name hip hop star posed for the paparazzi. Now I don’t want to play down the value of entertainers or the arts (hey, I’m one of them), but as I watched her raise colorful talons to pouty lips and saw her in a totally impractical designer dress that gave the impression she was literally blooming from a flower, I thought to myself with a certain amount of urgency, “I’ve got to do something that makes a difference.” Insert rueful smiley face …
You might recognize that star’s name, but here’s a name few will: William Tyndale. Tyndale, who the Evangelical Lutheran Worship (ELW) commemorates on October 6, was an English scholar during the time of Martin Luther. This professor, a lover of language (and a master of eight), made a lot of firsts in the “language” of faith. He created the first English Bible directly translated from Hebrew and Greek texts and the first one produced by using the printing press. His translation was the first English Bible of the Reformation and the first English translation to follow English Protestant Reformers’ preference to use “Jehovah” as God’s name. He was also the first to coin many phrases in his translations that we still recognize today: “my brother’s keeper”, “knock and it shall be opened unto you”, “let there be light”, and (in whom we) “live, move, and have our being” to name a few.
Yes, it would seem this biblical scholar was bound for fame and fortune but instead, he spent the later part of his life in hiding and was unable to complete his translation before being burned at the stake as a heretic. Among the charges against him: Breaking the law that stated no one was to possess an English version of the scriptures since the Roman Catholic church mandated scriptures be interpreted by clergy only.
And yet God had plans. William Tyndale’s work lived on and a few years after his death, four English translations were published by the king’s command, all based on Tyndale’s work. Though he didn’t live to see all of the fruits of his labor, through him, God’s word to Jeremiah in Chapter 29 verse 11 came to fruition for many more: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’” (NRSV)
God has plans for each of us. Sometimes we see them unfold before us, and it’s delightful and satisfying. Other times, as for Tyndale, the results may not come about in our lifetime or for many lifetimes, and it can be disappointing and discouraging. But never doubt God is still at work. Jeremiah verse 12 continues, “Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you.” God’s willing to walk with us, no matter how we do it. Wonders can happen in big, loud thunderclaps or soft, quiet wisps of air, but we all have it in us to be a light in the darkness, a voice in the silence, and hope in the face of despair.
You don’t need to put on fake nails or fancy clothes to make a difference. You don’t need a golden voice or a cadre of fans to make an impact. You don’t need to be a rock star. Just be who you were created to be and let God do the rest.