It’s all in how you say it

Doug Campbell - Contributing columnist

There’s a lovely, ecumenical group of pastors who meet each week at the General Denver – in the bar, no less (no, not during drinking hours) – to steal good ideas from each other for the coming Sunday’s sermon.

Sometimes we sit around just saying the Bible verses appointed for the day in as many different ways as we can. The way something is said, the inflection given the words, often changes the meaning drastically.

Lately it was the episode where Elijah the prophet is running away from the task God has given him. (1 Kings 19) Of course we’d never do anything like that! God asks, “What are you doing here?” It sounds like a scold. God says it twice; must’ve been really angry… or was He?

Quite apart from the earthquake, wind and fire, and then the silence that we usually preach about, when Elijah starts to listen to God, the Almighty repeats His question, but did the inflection change from a scold to something like, “OK, now why are you still hiding out in this cave? What are you doing here?”

It could have been a call to deeper thought: “What are you doing here?”

Get it?

I’ve often told people struggling with understanding a verse, “Read it over aloud as many times as there are words in it. Each time emphasize a different word – and don’t skip the “a’s and “the’s. See what happens.”

The Spirit is faithful. Usually somewhere along the line the message God wants for that person at that time pops right out.

One of my favorites is the Ten Commandments. Do we read them and hear God as the stern law-giver? Or do we hear God the Father (Jesus said to call Him “Dad”) saying, “You’re my child. This is the way we do things in this family. Make me proud.”

Give it a try. It’s like chicken soup: It can’t hurt.

Reformer, Martin Luther (my guy) once said, “Put you eyes in your ears” when reading Scripture: This stuff was intended to be spoken and heard, not just read.

Wonder whether it would work with newspapers and social media, too?

Pastor Doug Campbell is a retired Lutheran pastor and a member of Faith, Wilmington. He currently is supplying pulpits in the Southern Ohio Synod. He was formerly Deputy Wing Chaplain for the Civil Air Patrol in Ohio. Before seminary, he worked for the Chillicothe Gazette, and as the editor of the Chanute AFB newspaper in Rantoul, Ill.

Doug Campbell

Contributing columnist