Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Anne Richards writes:
Imagine entering a labyrinth and traversing its paths. You encounter a heap of wreckage and twisted metal, scrapped cars, all the junk of human waste. What does this mean? What are you supposed to think? A little further on and you encounter a huge cross, hung with wine bottles, pouring with water and shot through with brilliant light. What is this? What is this water and poured out wine? Even further on and you are blasted with the heat of flaming boulders, the earth caught fire. What is this encounter? Is it God?
This story of a Labyrinth experience set the scene for our last meeting and underlines the method we are now using for our work. Our material is not about interpreting people’s experiences, re-reading them and re-presenting them as Christian discourse, but enabling people to have experiences and helping them to name for themselves the God who is disturbing them, calling them, urging them to live fully as they are intended to do.
If we prescribe what we will say and think and feel before we enter the labyrinth, if we’ve already got the interpretation lined up, then we are denying to ourselves the element of awe and wonder, of being surprised by the God of surprises, of being shocked or overwhelmed. David Ford reminds us in The Shape of Living about the importance of being overwhelmed by the power and presence of the living God and this overwhelming is something that our work on the experience of our senses offers.
Central to our discussion at this meeting was the sense of taste: taste and see the Lord your God is good. In our rich western society, eating is largely divorced from the experience of being hungry. We live in the time of the celebrity chef, the chic ambience of restaurants, the pleasure (?) of receiving a coin sized roundel of meat calling hopelessly to the elegant green leaf on the farther shore of a delicate china plate. We go on diets, we binge and fast. We worry endlessly about foods that are ‘good’ for us, foods that are ‘bad’ for us. We are greedy and wasteful. We get fat. We die.
And elsewhere of course, people do not get fat. They have little or nothing to eat. And they die.
The Son of Man came eating and drinking. But who did the cooking and the washing up? The risen Lord cooked breakfast, offered hospitality and the sharing of food. The risen life offers this physical reality and sense experience: taste and see.
So in reaching out to people outside the church, we shouldn’t be telling them about food but starting with real ingredients: taste and see. It’s no good telling them about God and expecting them to believe our experiences offered to them as dream food, beyond their ken. We have forgotten that God’s command is to live. George Herbert knew it:
You must sit down sayes Love and taste my meat
And I did sit and eat.
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