I had no idea what they were talking about.
My father in law and I were out on the golf course, and the two guys we were paired with - jovial, enjoyable souls - were "talking shop" about their job.
In about 3 seconds of conversation, it became clear that they were speaking a technical language that only those who understood their line of work would…well…understand.
Their conversation went like this:
“Jeff was like, ‘Hey, when are we going to frigate the millennium abstract refractor?’ And I said, ‘What, is the sodium rate high enough for full flux capacitation or is it Friday already?’”
Chuckles all around. Whatever that meant.
I’m making all that up but as I sat listening to them, I thought of an old song from Christian tradition:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood and righteousness
When those of us who grew up in the church hear this song, it stirs memories and even moves us deep in our hearts and spirits.
But if we take a step back and pretend we’ve never heard this before, we see something else.
What does it mean to build “trust” in someone’s “blood”?
What does our lingo mean here? What does it mean to someone who has no idea what we're talking about?
The words of the Scriptures came in a culture that understood blood sacrifices. Anyone living near the temple in Jerusalem would see, hear, and smell the reality of blood sacrifice.
However today, unless your neighborhood has some sort of “animal sacrifice block party” or you live in a culture where that practice is still common, this language doesn’t mean much of anything to you.
We all have lingo. Language. Words and phrases that make sense to us, but not to others.
I do understand the benefit and power of shared language. It helps us get things done, certainly, but I also know that shared language can grant “insider status.” Just find a sound engineer and talk about “XLR connectors” or a golfer and say “I stuck a 60 degree wedge to 3 feet from the pin” and you’ll find yourself inside a circle of welcome and familiarity. You speak the lingo.
It makes sense, in a way. The words we use are often loaded with theological significance, with history, and in the case of the "blood" it has roots in the sacred texts that form and shape our faith.
I have fond memories of other songs about the blood. A man named Garman Grimmett was the song leader at the church where I grew up. In my youthful ignorance and my newness to church, I didn’t realize that was the man’s first name. I thought it was a title, as in all song leaders are known as “the Garman.”
I remember singing, What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Blood washes? When? I know the wars my mom waged with white baseball pants and massively shredded knees. Blood was to be washed out, not washed with.
Here’s the point of the post. The things that are real resonate. The language we use has a spiritual power, especially when it connects a person to the world in which they live - simply put, those words make sense. So perhaps it’s time to ask some questions, if you use language like this often.
What is sacred, the lingo or the life it represents?
If the point is the “life” and not the lingo, then perhaps it’s time for us to speak differently?
If we need to speak differently, what metaphors or images say “nothing but the blood” to a culture and world where blood sacrifice hasn’t had a central role?
Yes, the imagery of the Scriptures is of blood washing sins. I get that. However, that suited the audience. Perhaps the most spiritually forming act is to be intentional, thoughtful, and imaginative in the way we say old things in a new way?
Because again, what is real resonates.
May you speak things into being today that are the same but different, that are ancient but alive, that are mysterious but meaty for those who have no idea what you’re talking about.