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Azugos

Date: April 28, 2019/Speaker: Sharla Hulsey
Mountain

Scripture: Matthew 28:16-20 

Scripture Reader: Jennifer S.

Mike just finished watching a short Netflix series called Anne with an “E.”  It’s based on—loosely based on—a series of books by Lucy Maud Montgomery that begins with Anne of Green Gables.  (Very loosely.)

I’m not really a whole lot of fun to watch movies and TV programs with if they’re based on books, or at least books I’ve read.  I’m sure Mike got really sick of me pointing out the cinemutation that occurred in that series.

Cinemutation?  Never heard that word?

It comes from the kind of humor that language nerds like myself really enjoy.  It’s a Sniglet.  Sniglets originated on an original HBO series in the early 1980s, Not Necessarily the News.  It was sort of a precursor to shows like The Daily Show.  In every episode, one of the cast members, Rich Hall—later to be part of the cast of Saturday Night Live, briefly—would introduce us to several Sniglets:  words that aren’t in the dictionary, but should be.  I watched it religiously.

Words are fascinating things, and I think all of us know some word that doesn’t exist, but we are pretty sure should.

Cinemutation is what happens to a book when it gets made into a movie.  Sometimes they really make a hash of it—like Anne with an “E” or the extremely unfortunate Disney adaptation of five books by Lloyd Alexander into one animated feature called The Black Cauldron.[1]

Sometimes the segment would include a picture or a short video clip that illustrated the new word.  The one I remember the most clearly is stroodle—the string of hot cheese that goes from the slice of pizza you just bit into to your mouth.  The main reason I remember it is that it was illustrated by a clip of President Reagan eating pizza, and a caption, “Executive Stroodle.”

The segment was such a hit that Macmillan published no fewer than five books filled with Sniglets.[2]  I have all five.  They’re in my office.  I got them out this week and looked through them—and I was really glad nobody else was here, because I laughed out loud.  A lot.

The thing about Sniglets is that they describe things we’ve all experienced, but there’s no word for them.

Like “Rogerland,” that magical place the highway patrolman materializes from as you’re speeding down the road.

We’ve just about all had “destinesia,” going into another room but forgetting why.

Just a few weeks ago, right here in this sanctuary, we experienced “guffawnix,” when, as Shawn said the Communion prayer, Mary’s phone piped up with, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand,” and we all did our best not to ruin the solemn moment by laughing.

If you make your coffee in an automatic drip machine, you’ve probably seen “Joes of Arc,” drops of coffee that fall out of the basket while you’re pouring your first cup, and die a fiery death on the burner.  (I had to explain that one to Mike.)

Some of them are pretty obvious in their meanings:  a “maypop” is a bald tire, and a “mustgo” is a container of leftovers that has been in the back of your refrigerator for way too long.

Have you ever eaten one of those powdered sugar-covered donuts?  Maybe you’ve had “dünken häcken,” choking on that powdered sugar.  (At our house, that has become the name for those little powdered sugar donuts.  Sometimes you just have to have some.)

There are onomatopoetic Sniglets—that’s a fancy word familiar to literature nerds for a word that sounds like the thing it describes—like “Shwee,” which is the sound the doors on Star Trek make when they open.

But turns out that Rich Hall doesn’t get the last and final word on Sniglets.  A lot of families have their own Sniglets, which are in common usage among their members even though they never made it to the show.

I heard once of a girl who called the dust bunnies under the bed “people coming and going.”  (“You are dust, and to dust you shall return,” you know.)

At our house, “catified” is the description for anything that a cat has damaged or destroyed by clawing it, chewing it, or puking on it.

A Sniglet came immediately to my mind when I read our Scripture for today.  It’s my sermon title—“Azugos.”  Those are the things somebody puts on the stairs, in the hope that the next person who goes up will take them with them.

The reason that word pops into my mind is because we’ve lost something in the translation of the Great Commission from Greek to English.

“Go ye therefore,” the old King James Bible said.  Our newer translations drop the “ye,” which was the second-person plural, the Elizabethan equivalent of “y’all” or “you’uns.”[3]

But the command is essentially the same:  “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”

In my Baptist upbringing, we all learned that by memory, and then our teachers and preachers told us that Jesus commanded us to “witness” to others and get them to become Christians.  It terrified me.  I was the kid who never even sold Girl Scout cookies, because the idea of knocking on a stranger’s door to sell them something—even something they definitely wanted, like Thin Mints—was enough to give me nightmares.  Expecting me to walk up to someone and ask them the cliché question, “If you were to die today, do you know where you’d spend eternity?” was simply out of the question.

And yet my good Baptist teachers and preachers were right.  Jesus did command us to go and make disciples.  So for a long time I was pretty sure I wasn’t a good enough Christian, because I just plain couldn’t do it.

Imagine my relief when I found out that what Jesus actually said was sort of like that Sniglet—“Azugos.”

The business of translating from one language to another is an inexact science.  Things don’t always work in the new language the way they worked in the original.  There are words that simply can’t be translated because there isn’t a word in the new language that means the same thing.  And translation usually requires some interpretation, for good or for ill.

Last week I mentioned a name that is listed in Paul’s greetings at the end of Romans:  Junia, who up until fairly recently got called “Junias” in English translations because folks just plain couldn’t imagine a woman being “prominent among the apostles.”

And here at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, we find something that has been lost in translation, and perhaps interpreted in ways that aren’t entirely helpful as it went from Koinē Greek to English.  That verb, “go,” isn’t an imperative—it’s not a command in the same way we would say “Go” when we want someone out of our sight.  It’s a participle—a verb, in English usually ending in -ing, that can be used as an adjective.  It doesn’t say “go”; it says “going.”  That doesn’t translate smoothly into English, so decisions had to be made.

Maybe we could translate the Great Commission, instead of “Go therefore and make disciples…”, as “Therefore, as you go, make disciples…”  In other words, you’re going somewhere—that’s pretty much a given for all of us, even if we’re just going to work or to the park or to a ball game—so wherever you go, make disciples.

And that opens a whole new set of doors for an introvert like me who isn’t about to go knock on strangers’ doors.  It opens a whole new set of doors for all of us who’ve been taught that you don’t talk about religion in polite company.  Just go on with your life—working for a living, raising kids, hanging out with friends, whatever you do—but do it all in such a way that you make disciples.

Still a little confusing, maybe?

How about this, often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi:  “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”  Let your life show others that you’re a disciple of Jesus, and that being his disciple—or his student, his apprentice—has made a difference in how you live, the words you say, the decisions you make; and let Christ living in and through you be so captivating that everyone you encounter recognizes that they, too, want to follow him.

You don’t have to knock on a single door…unless that’s something you enjoy doing.  You just have to go about your business, and as you go, sprinkle the seeds of Good News into the lives of everyone you meet.


[1] I would dearly love it if someone would take the Chronicles of Prydain and make them into a series of movies, like the Harry Potter series.  They’re such good books.  Or, come to think of it, maybe it’d be better if they just stayed books.

[2] Sniglets (1984), More Sniglets (1985), Unexplained Sniglets of the Universe (1986), Angry Young Sniglets (1987), and When Sniglets Ruled the Earth (1989).

[3] That was a favorite of my great-great-grandma Freeman, who was from Dent County, Missouri.

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