Five Letter Words
The person who edits this blog helps to tidy up bad grammar and iron out inelegant phrases.
He also introduced my wife and me to Wordle, a game invented during lockdown by British software engineer Josh Wardle for his girlfriend. Wardle said that he wanted to invent a game that they could enjoy playing together.
Eventually the game went online and has now been bought by the New York Times. The game is still free and retains the idea of one word puzzle to solve each day. It’s a brilliant idea because it does not waste time by having to play it all day and everybody who plays is trying to find the same word.
The game begins with the player putting in five letters. Wordle tells the player if any of the letters are right and if any of the right letters are in the right place. Then there are up to five attempts to guess the five-letter word for the day. There is a certain satisfaction in getting in it in two or three. Yet sometimes it takes all of the attempts to get the word.
Josh Wardle says that “It has been incredible to watch the game bring so much joy … uniting distant family members, provoking friendly rivalries, to supporting medical recoveries.”
There is something about simple concepts that are accessible to people of different backgrounds and foster joy.
I got to thinking about how preachers need to find ways to convey biblical truth in accessible ways that will promote joy and draw people together.
The process of reflecting on a biblical text for preaching can sometimes be like doing a Wordle puzzle. I start my Wordle with two fairly predictable words: ADIEU or RAISE, which both have the advantage of containing three of the five vowels. That is often a good start, unless of cause the five-letter word is BOOTY!
Each guess seeks to tease out further clues for uncovering the mystery word. At each step the aim is to get closer and clearer, until, hey presto, it is revealed. The joy that Josh Wardle describes is in the moment of discovery when it becomes clear that this was obviously the word all along.
There is a similar feeling of joy when in working with a biblical text. The preacher hits the sweet spot of understanding. This sometimes comes relatively quickly but at times the preacher has a few false starts in getting to the heart of what a particular biblical passage is seeking to communicate. There is a genuine sense of delight at the moment when the penny drops.
That is one of the things I like about that juggernaut of a Psalm: 119.
The Psalmist delights in the chase after God in his searching of Scripture. Then the Psalm reminds us of the impact of the ‘aha’ moments that occur in our reading.
“The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”
This is the fruit of godly curiosity, patience and humility. The wait is always worth it.
The result is an understanding that shapes sermons which allow the Bible to speak today.