November 19, 2010

A God of the Senses: Taste

Filed under: Uncategorized — kevinocoin @ 9:07 am
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Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good (1 Peter 2:2-3).

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him (Psalm 34:8).

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth (Psalm 119:103).

“I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet” (Luke 14:24).

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit,  who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance (Hebrews 6:4-6a).

There is a kind of spiritual temperment called the Sensate (see Garry Thomas, Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path to God). This kind of person finds connection to God by using the senses — colourful artwork, incense, the taste of bread and wine, the feel of a rough wooden cross, and the sound of music are all powerful avenues of access to communion with the divine.  Which is why I imagine the metaphor of tasting and eating would resonate well with such a personality.

But we all need to tast and eat.  Naturally we are not actual tasting or eating God (debates about the Real Presence in the Eucharist aside — here I am displaying my Evangelical Protestant sympathies), but let’s think about the idea of eating and what it means to all of us.  Eating sustains and nourishes us.  It allows us to grow and mature and develop.  Without food for long periods of time, we would die or at the best be very weak and physically imapired.  But it is not just a matter of eating enough food, because not all food is of equal nutritive value.  A steady diet of onions rings, corndogs, and ice-cream has too many calories and not enough good nutrients to make one grow up healthy and strong. 

In the same way, we need to ask ourselves what we are tasting and eating spiritually speaking.  1 Peter commands us to crave the pure spirtual milk that God our Father offers us.  There is nothing better or more appropriate for an infant than nutrient-laden mother’s milk.  Other Scriptures then exhort us to move on to spiritual meat as we mature (see 1 Cor 3:2, Heb 5:12).  While junk food may have the more immediately appealing flavour or the bigger fun-factor, the best food is the stuff that will give your body what it needs.  Are you eating spiritual junk food or are you making healthier choices?  Are you eating from Sin or the Saviour?  Psalm 34 tells us to taste of the Lord, because he is the true food.  Jesus says, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35). 

But more broadly, these texts are about the taste of goodness that our Father offers to us.  Can we name the times and ways and places when and where we have tasted this goodness?  How did we react to it then, and what has kept us from always coming back? Or how are we being lured away from this by the prospect of other tastes?  I heard recently that we are so overwhelmed and inundated by artifically sweet-tasting foods that we can no longer taste what real sweetness is: our taste buds are so dead that something that would have been perhaps far too sweet for someoen 100 years ago now nearly registers on our tongue.  Psalm 119 calls God’s words sweeter than honey – a real, natural sugar.  But when faced with the choice between honey, or a chocolate bar or Slurpee, which might we choose?  The real deal (God’s word/honey) may not be as appealing as the ultra-sweet but inauthentic subsitute.  Where in our lives are we trading honey for Slurpees, maybe without even knowing it?  How can we recognize the times when Jesus is holding out to us a taste of the good life?  How can we respond appropriately and get our taste-buds re-calibrated?

Holy Spirit, may you compel us to continue to come back to you again and again, so that we may feast on the true and healthy food that you have to offer.  And may we turn away from those things that taste good and may even seem to be perfectly approprriate and off little ill effect in small amounts, but which in the end are not going to offer us what our spirits need.  May we increase in our appetite for you, and may we find new and better ways to taste the goodness that you have to offer us.  It is your desire to we should eat the true food that satisfies.   


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