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By W. TERENCE ERBELE
About 50 years ago my English teacher bemoaned the demise of spelling because of marquees and billboards. Most signs are not big enough to completely and correctly spell all the info necessary. Even here in Ktn, AK, abbrs. and acronyms are commonplace. Well-known examples include: USA, HR, hr., min., lbs., tsp, kg, ASAP, TGIF, PIN, BOGO and 9/11. Often we no longer remember the original name — radar (radio detecting and ranging), laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation), modem (modulator-demodulator), scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus), etc. An abbr. can lead to redundancy such as the common reference to an ATM machine.
Every profession develops its own semantics, leaving the rest of us wondering what is being said. By the time I mentally process what was said, the speaker has moved on with his or her thought and it is too awkward to backtrack. You overhear the dental assistant report that there is a problem with 4 and 9. Your wondering ceases once the drilling starts.
I am careful to refer to my denomination as UMC because Meth Church could have an entirely different meaning — especially after one of our members discovered cannabis growing in the flowerbed. Even various departments within a church develop their own language little understood by anyone else. At one time I had the title of GBGMNEJMIIR.
Inside church buildings, we see abbrs. A little knowledge of Latin and Greek helps decipher HIS, INRI and ICHTHUS.
Xtns around the world just celebrated Xmas. More than one person has objected to these abbrs. because X stands for the unknown. Sadly, it is true that many do not know the love of God expressed through God’s Son becoming fully human. Even for those who have experienced the love of God, there is still much to ponder such as how the immortal could die. Who can comprehend the power of the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, who provides a peace that passes understanding, a joy inexpressible and full of glory, and hope that is unquenchable? How does God change a person’s life? Maybe X is appropriate since we are left in awe of the mysterious infinite.
X, in Greek, stands for the first letter of the word “Christ.” Interestingly, we are told in the Bible that Christ is the revelation of God. By knowing Christ you know God. So maybe X should stand for the known. Today is the first day of the Epiphany season, which is a celebration that God has been revealed in JC to all nations.
What would my English teacher have said about the current phenomena of internet slang with no capitalization and punctuation? It took me years to find out LOL means laugh out loud. I was using emojis for a year before a third grader told me what they are called. Many favor emoticons such as :-). Perhaps an emoticon from God would be I <3 u.
Recently I discovered TL;DR. It originally was an editor’s notation. (Internet chatspeak usually drops the semicolon.) It is used in reference to a text, article or attachment received as “too long; didn’t read.” I wonder if that is a way we could refer to God’s grace. The list of our sins is too long. We groan under the weight of guilt and find shame unbearable. Through faith in Christ, we hear the message: “What sins are there to read? The blood of the Lamb has taken away the sins of the world.” B4 carrying a grudge or nursing a presumed hurt or indignation we should practice TLDR making it aka forgiveness.
The Rev. W. Terence Erbele is a pastor of the Ketchikan First United Methodist Church.
Perspectives is a regular column sponsored and written by members of the Ketchikan Ministerial Association.