September 7, 2017
Have you ever read a story to a kid and tried to do voices for the characters? Or have you found yourself doing voices even if you didn’t mean to? Wondering what those questions have to do with spiritual things? Click through to find out.
Some people are good at voices. I’m not one of those people. Accents I can do; funny voices, not so much.
When I read to my daughter, I don’t mean to give the characters different voices, but I do anyway. The villain always sounds gruffer (and often has a British accent, because every great movie villain has a British accent), the hero sounds more noble (which also sometimes involves a British accent, which is weird), and while I draw the line at princess voices (why does every story involve a princess?), it’s like I can’t help myself.
Why do I do that? Because tone is important. I want my daughter to experience the story emotionally, and I know that making the bad guys sound like bad guys will help her to engage.
At least, that’s what I think, right until she stops me and says, “Daddy, why are you doing that voice? I don’t like it.”
Okay, so I’m not always as successful as I’d like to be. But you can’t fault the intention, and the point remains: tone matters.
As you may know, I’m a fan of written communication, which is good because I write this blog and a sermon every week. For the most part, I prefer writing to in-person conversation because I have the standard level of introvert anxiety around conversations, and writing allows me to formulate my thoughts more clearly. Also, my keyboard has a delete key. My mouth? Not so much.
When I write this blog, I write with a particular tone of voice in mind. When you read this blog, though, you might not read it with that same tone, and that’s what makes writing ripe for misinterpretation.
Writing is an exercise in trust. I trust that you’ll read what I write in the tone that I intended, because if I’m using one tone (the noble, vaguely-British hero), and you’re using another (the gruff, very British villain), something’s going to be lost.
But how do you know what tone of voice I intended? The only way to know is through relationship. I have the chance to build relationships with you both through writing and in person. And the more time we spend together, either through the written word, sermons on Sunday, meeting about church things, or just talking about football, the easier it will be for you to know what I’m trying to say when you read what I write.
Let’s shift the example to something else we all read: the Bible.
Okay, that sentence is a good example of one of those things that could be misunderstood.
How did you read that line? My hope is that you read it as me saying, “Hey, audience, I’m glad that you’re reading this, and because what I write here is directed at Christian people, I’m going to assume that you read the Bible, at least every once in a while.”
Moving on. As we’ve been studying Luke’s gospel, we’ve come across a number of recorded conversations between Jesus and other people, from the workaday Jewish folks to the disciples to the Pharisees and religious leaders.
This week, we’ll be looking at a short conversation between Jesus and his disciples just before Jesus performs a miracle by feeding thousands of people with five loaves and two fish. The disciples, seeing that the hour is late, come to Jesus and say, “Hey Jesus, it’s getting late. You should tell the people to go and find food and lodging in the villages nearby, because we’re out here in the middle of the wilderness.”
In response, Jesus turns to them and says, “You give them something to eat.”
Here’s the question: what tone does that conversation have when you read it? How do the disciples sound? How does Jesus sound? What expression is on his face as he says that to the disciples? What expression is on their faces?
Those questions matter because how you read that conversation will influence what you take from the story.
Like all written communication, the Bible is an exercise in trust. The Holy Spirit inspired human authors to write down his divine revelation, and he trusts us to read it in the tone he intended.
And the only way to hear the correct tone is through relationship. God isn’t an anonymous author, dropping his Word from on high and leaving us to guess what he means. God wants us to know him. He reveals himself to us through the beauty of creation, through the love we have for the people closest to us, through the calm assurance of salvation, through the divine circumstances of our lives, through the joy, through the heartache, and through everything in between.
Our God wants to be known. He wants us to know who he is and what he does. He wants us to know that even though we were dead in our sins, he sought us unrelentingly and sacrificed his own Son to purchase our redemption.
How does that God sound when he speaks?
This Sunday, we’ll look at the conversation between Jesus and his disciples, the miraculous feeding, and what the story teaches us about our lives as followers of Jesus. I’m excited about what I’m finding as I research, and I can’t wait to share it with you.