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How Can We Say Things So People Will Hear Us?

WorshipOutloud-GraphicMaking The Familiar Strange

Sometimes it is helpful to say something with different words so it can have impact again. When we hear things over and over in exactly the same way we can lose the ability to listen to the meaning.

I overheard two people in church yesterday as they greeted each other with smiles. One person said, “Hey, what’s going on!” and the other person answered, “Pretty good, how about you?” Obviously they had mixed up the standard “How are you doing?” and “Oh, not much.”

Words can lose their impact when we hear them often. The first time my wife told me she loved me my heart swelled up with joy and I was ecstatic for days, now it is something we say to each other before we fall asleep. It is not meaningless, in fact it is more meaningful after thirty years of marriage than it was when we were awkward teenagers, but the familiar words have lost some of their impact.

What if tonight she said, “I loved watching you help the kids with homework tonight,” or “I feel like the luckiest girl in the world when I lay beside you each night.” That would feel different wouldn’t it?

It is risky though.

I might be so moved by her words that I am tempted to incline more than my heart toward her and then we might not go to sleep right away.

I might wonder if she is being passively critical of other nights when I didn’t help the kids with their homework.

If I greet someone at church with a real question about how they are doing, they might actually tell me their problems and I would have to stand there pretending to be interested.

What if we applied this idea to what we say in church? What if we changed up the way we say the common prayers, confessions, invocations, songs and scripture readings? What if we intentionally made the familiar things strange so that we could think about them again? Not to distort their meaning but to allow the words to have fresh impact.

This is risky too, and can make people uncomfortable.

Some people will hear God’s Word through these “changed up” moments and be convicted by the Spirit, or have questions and conversation stirred up—this is a good kind of uncomfortable.

Other people will be critical of change, they will not put the best construction on things, they will mock the new approach and complain about how it is inferior to the old, and dangerous—this is a bad uncomfortable.

Sometimes it is comforting to hear familiar words, so I am not suggesting that we throw out the old. I’m suggesting that we draw attention to the most important things by occasionally changing up the words and giving them fresh impact.

May the Lord be with you.