In Words | Sermon Series

Rev. Rich Rudowske

About The Episode

We celebrate the incarnation of the Son – fully God and fully man – at Christmas.

Dive in as Director for Program Ministries Rev. Rich Rudowske shares how the Bible must also be incarnate in the language people understand best.

Rich Rudowske
Open the door to a different understanding of the gospel. A Christ that is for us, a Christ that dwells with us, a Christ that has understood our struggles and has made us right with God. 

Rich Rudowske
Welcome to the essentially translatable podcast brought. 

Rich Rudowske
To you by Lutheran Bible translators. 

Rich Rudowske
I’m rich Redowski. 

Emily Wilson
And I’m Emily Wilson, and we want to wish you a very happy new year. 

Rich Rudowske
Happy New Year. 

Emily Wilson
So exciting. We have a blank slate, right? Yes. 

Rich Rudowske
The new year is a marker in time that, of course, it’s kind of popular to say we’ve left the old behind. We’re looking forward to something new and starting over, trying to get on the right foot and be a better version of me. That’s one way of looking at it. 

Emily Wilson
But, well, in honor of starting the year off right, we decided we’re going to throw it back to a sermon that you actually gave at Concordia St. Louis seminary. And the content is about the power of words and the gospel in words, and that challenge that we have of being active and sharing the gospel in words and living into that. 

Rich Rudowske
Yeah, we’ll just maybe give you the disclaimer ahead of time, too. Of course, it’s delivered at a seminary, so for seminary students, it’s a little bit lofty. And the passage itself is one corinthians, two, verses, six to 13, which is fairly lofty passage itself. You might want to read that ahead. 

Emily Wilson
Of time and reread it. And then reread it and then maybe look at a different version. 

Rich Rudowske
Fascinating for how God speaks, what he’s doing, but, yeah, give it a listen and we’ll come back and talk to you about it. 

Rich Rudowske
Grace and peace to you from God our father, from our lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Reading again from one corinthians. Yet among the mature, we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. Also verse 13. We impart this in words not taught by human wisdom, but taught by the spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. This is our text. Dear friends in Christ, brother, pastors, teachers, students of this fine institution, we spend a great deal of time in training and in preparation for the task of proclaiming the word of God, particularly proclaiming the gospel. 

Rich Rudowske
And we talk of how the gospel must predominate in our preaching. We talk of how mission outreach activities in our communities, region, nation, and around the world are tools that enable us to do gospel proclamation. But what is this gospel that we proclaim? And when I ask this question, I’m not at this point looking for the content of the gospel message, but rather I’m asking about the form of the gospel. The gospel is good news to mankind. We are taught that God works through means to proclaim this message of his grace, particularly word and sacraments. The sacraments are easy to describe in form. Baptism is water with the word, and the Lord’s supper is Christ’s body and blood in, with, and under visible elements of bread and wine, administered according to God’s word. To Christ’s word. It’s the word. 

Rich Rudowske
When I talk about the form of the word, that’s a little bit more difficult to get a handle on. Paul writes, we do impart wisdom, but it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age. We impart a secret and hidden wisdom. So there’s some kind of wisdom, a hidden secret wisdom that comes from God himself. And how is this communicated? Verse 13. We impart this in words. Now, I know it goes on to say, not taught by human wisdom, but taught by the spirit. But I want to focus on the fact this morning that this wisdom is imparted in words. Jack Price, in his book just words, writes, for it to be the gospel of God, the gospel must be fleshed in human words. 

Rich Rudowske
As Christ has two natures, divine and human, so his word, the gospel, can be thought of to have two natures, also divine, inhuman. For Jesus to be the Christ of scriptures, who has saved and justified us, the human nature is necessary. Likewise, the human nature of the gospel is necessary. For it to be the gospel of God, it must be incarnate. It must become incarnated in human language. As a linguist, having worked on a Bible translation among people who had never had a written language before, this idea of the word and its form and being incarnate in human language really sticks out to me for the better part of five years. 

Rich Rudowske
My job, day in and day out, is to think carefully about how to express God’s wisdom using the terms of a new language, a language that the gospel had not been in, fleshed in written form before. An early section that we translated was the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus on Easter evening, recorded in Luke 24. And on our first draft, my staff wanted to use a word in the language called shinqui, that’s the word shinkwe, to describe this thing that Jesus blessed and broke at the meal. I had heard a similar sounding word in a majority language in the area that there was some language contact with. But I’d never heard this word used in either language in common speech. So I asked why we would not use the word for bread that they had in their language, broochio. 

Rich Rudowske
And when I said we should use this word, the staff was concerned that it was not mysterious enough. Without going into all the details, this word shinkwe was really an unknown term in the language, but people believed it to be a special bread that only Jesus had, and they were concerned that if we said Barochio, the people would think that Jesus was just eating and blessing regular, everyday bread. And I learned in my time there that the Christianity practiced by these folks, they’re called the Bakalahari. They understood God and Christ to be far off, distant, shrouded in mystery. But Christ, according to the words of Luke 24, is found in the breaking of the bread, plain bread, everyday elements like bread and wine. He’s found in water with the word. He’s found in the ink on a page, the spoken word of God. 

Rich Rudowske
This idea of a Christ so approachable was revolutionary to the thinking of the Christians there and opened the door to a different understanding of the gospel. A Christ that is for us, a Christ that dwells with us, a Christ that has become and understood our struggles and yet was without sin and has made us right with God. Just the changing of this one word, the gospel fleshed in this one carefully selected word, communicated by the spirit, and it communicated the mind of God to the Bakalahari people. This task of enfleshing the gospel in human language doesn’t just belong to missionaries in seeking to engage people in a far off nation with the gospel. This task applies to the work that you, my brother pastors, are called to do. This work, and this task applies to you, beloved seminarians that are in training to do. 

Rich Rudowske
We must never lose sight of the wondrous power and exceedingly good news proclaimed in the words of the gospel in our text today. It is described in verse nine this way, what no eye has seen, nor ear has heard, nor the heart of man imagined, the thing that God has prepared for those who love him. Our joyful task is to be in dialogue both with the word of God and with those whom we are entrusted to shepherd as pastors, and through that dialogue, to come to know the points of entry for the gospel so that the word can take on flesh in the words with which you proclaim it. Never underestimate the importance of this task. The words of the gospel give us entry into the mind of God. 

Rich Rudowske
Verse eleven says, who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the spirit of God. The word of God gives us access to the mind of God through the Holy Spirit. Yet words also give us access to the world as well. Again, proce writes, if this is true of words in general, it is certainly true of the words that are the word of God. So the words themselves must be taken with the utmost seriousness if we hope to convey the divine saving word to others. That’s the way the word of God works. It comes in words. It cannot be communicated without them. But we are not left to our own devices. Paul writes that we are taught by the spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 

Rich Rudowske
This task of interpreting, of inflashing the gospel in human language that engages our hearers is a daunting task, but a task upon which we can count on the fact that we are guided by the spirit. So, pastors, when you struggle and you will struggle with periods of dryness, I don’t know what the word is saying here. I don’t know what I’m going to say when I get up there on Sunday. Take heart. The spirit guides you and teaches you. Deaconess is when you are in a situation providing care and you don’t feel like you have the words to say, you don’t know how you’re going to talk to the folks you’re serving. 

Rich Rudowske
The spirit teaches you through our study of the word, through our preparation to proclaim the word, through our engagement with the word and engagement with the community, and through our proclamation of the gospel, the spirit teaches us. And that is truly good news. May he give us wisdom. May he always give us guidance. May he always give us a deep sense of the awe for the task that we are privileged to do, to take this divine saving gospel and put it into human language, to take this great saving word of God and make it enfleshed in the language that you speak to your hearers and those that you care for. In Jesus name, amen. Okay, so first things first. 

Rich Rudowske
I’ll give you a little insight behind the scenes, and that is, this sermon I gave. 

Rich Rudowske
It was probably more than five years. 

Rich Rudowske
Ago now at the seminary. And then outside, after the service, having coffee outside, one of my former preaching professors comes up to me, and you know what he asks? Which word did you guys choose? And if you go back and listen to. Actually, I didn’t actually say, yeah, which. 

Rich Rudowske
Word we ended up choosing. It was a cliffhanger, which is baroque. 

Rich Rudowske
Cho, the word for common bread. That is what the Luke 22 passage in Shakalari now says again, that Jesus is accessible. He uses those normal, everyday elements and our application here as we’re thinking of a new year’s. He uses those normal, everyday encounters and things in our lives to give us the opportunity to speak life and speak the gospel in words. 

Emily Wilson
I think that’s just really powerful because sometimes we can throw up our hands and say, like, well, what does this mean for me? I’m not a pastor. I’m not a deaconess, or I don’t do official ministry, but that God has given us power in the Holy Spirit to be able to speak those words of life and to lean into that gospel on the daily and to embrace those opportunities. 

Rich Rudowske
Yeah, when we talk that part about the Holy Spirit giving us the mind of Christ, that’s not just for professional church workers or pastors or deaconesses, right? Each of us that are baptized into Christ have the Holy Spirit, and thus the promises are for all of us. 

Rich Rudowske
Thank you for listening to the essentially translatable podcast brought to you by Lutheran Bible translators. You can find past episodes of the slash podcast or subscribe on audible, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Follow lutheran Bible translators social media channels on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Or go to to find out how you can get involved in the Bible translation movement and put God’s word in their hands. This episode of essentially translatable was produced and edited by Andrew Olson. Our executive producer is Emily Wilson. Podcast artwork was designed by Caleb Rotewald. Music written and performed by Rob Weit. I’m Rich Radowski. So long. For now. 


  • A sermon given by Rev. Rich Rudowske at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis
  • This message  encourages pastors and all believers to take seriously their role in proclaiming the gospel through words, reminding them that they are guided by the Holy Spirit.

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