Scripture is an ancient text – we live with it in current times, seeking to understand what messages and insights it continues to offer.
We can’t help but bring a modern (post, post modern) lens to our reading of scripture because that is the context we are coming from.
And yet today, we are going to take that one step further and use a very modern tool to help us explore scripture:
The hashtag is a tool invented by, and primarily used on the social media platform: Twitter. The purpose of a hashtag is to index or categorize keywords or topics in Tweets. A user can simply put a hashtag [a pound sign/tic-tac-toe board] in front of any keywords which will then bold the word and make it more easily searchable. Once a hashtag is in place a user can simply click on that bolded hashtag and it will bring up a list of other tweets that use that same hashtag so that you can read a variety of perspectives or sources of information/opinion/commentary about that subject.
As I said this was first used on Twitter, but has spread across other social media platforms and has even found a place in our cultural language – earning itself an entry into the Oxford English Dictionary.
As things tend to do, the uses of hashtags have also transformed from simply highlighting or referencing a single word/category/theme and now is also used for brief snippets of commentary. When you encounter a hashtag it may still be a single word or topic, or it may be a short phrase. These short phrases provide either a very brief synopsis of a longer thought, or they may provide commentary on the story or thought they are attached to as a way of crafting how people read the story. The phrases can be serious, cynical, satirical, mundane or humorous [to name just a few…]
Example [direct from Twitter’s own How to Use Hashtags webpage]:
Example of a phrase hashtag [inspired by a friend of mine]:
Imagine a picture of some shriveled and dehydrated bits of carrots and pizza.
Caption reads: I found these under a bookshelf… #foodmychildrensaidtheyate
Or in another vein – this week the church put up a Facebook post speaking our solidarity with our Muslim siblings in light of the shooting at a mosque in New Zealand. Another individual shared our post on social media and attached the following hastags:
As you can see – the heart of the message in these moments has been distilled down to a #hashtag phrase. And that is what I am inviting us to do today – to use this very modern tool of distilling information into key words and commentary phrases as we listen to and explore several scripture passages together.
What will happen when we use this tool to read scripture? What might we glean from scripture as we explore it this way? What windows might this open for us in our interactions with scripture and its insights into our lives?
Let’s find out!
This is a creative experiment that we are all going to take together!
- Don’t panic!
- I have already prepped a few people who make use of hashtags to be ready to participate
- Format of hashtags: either a single word or a phrase with no punctuation or spaces
- I have recently learned that, for the sake of accessibility and reading assistance in technology uses, it is a best practice to capitalize the first letter of each word in a phrase even though not using a space.
- I will give us a few examples to get us thinking about how we might use hashtags in relationship to scripture
- Because we are using a very modern tool to explore a very ancient text we are going to meet in the middle of technological invention and use pen and paper to write out our #hashtags instead of actually live tweeting them into the world
- Explain theme if you are willing – or just let them speak for themselves
- Have fun, be creative, give it a try…
The senior high youth and I came up with a few examples in Sunday school this morning to get us started. Let’s ponder the declaration of Jesus’ birth to shepherds in a field by angels as found in Luke 2:8-18. Possible scripture response hashtags:
Below are the #hashtags created by the community during the sermon time in response to the following scriptures:
Genesis 15:1-12; 17-18