Monday, January 21, 2013

The Bible Challenge, Day 15: Genesis 37-39; Psalm 13; Matthew 13

Experiencing God with all the senses...

Joseph dreams. The Psalmist looks for signs. Jesus preaches in parables. Each of the readings today provokes in me an awareness that God doesn't just come to us through mental exercises or simple ideas being conveyed by articulate teachers. God comes to us through all our senses. We see, feel, smell, taste and touch in order to experience life. Should God be any different? "Taste and see that the Lord is Good..." That tune is one of my favorite hymns...to sing at communion...and, from time to time, with the light haze of incense hanging in the sanctuary. Song, bread, wine, incense, music, candles, the touch of hand-to-hand peace as the bread and cup pass from person to person...all of it, worship commands ALL of the senses to be awake. It demands that WE be awake to God in our midst.

Sensing God need not only be in the sanctuaries built with human hands. Holding a newborn, fresh and warm from sleep is another way to sense God. Being out in the garden, working the soil, tending the plants that will become food for us is a way to connect to the Divine in creation. The smell of savory, or sweet, food cooking when we come home-from anywhere-reminds us that communion is a daily experience not restricted to being in church. Feeling the sun on our back on a spring day, or feeling the bite of a cold wind in January on your cheeks...life is a sensory experience. Should our experience of God be anything less than that?

Joseph dreams, and in those dreams sees and experiences a world that God intends, one that is revealed in sensory images that challenge everyone around him to live more fully into alignment with God's purposes. They don't bring comfort, but they do guide and govern him into a place where he can save his people from famine. Restoration comes from knowing, seeing and feeling the healing of the wounds that had shattered his relationships with his brothers...

Jesus teaches in parables, not so much to obscure or hide meaning, but instead to open up people to hear, see, touch, taste and smell God in order to learn about the nature of God's inbreaking Kingdom. The parable of the grower provokes the senses as people resonate to the images and sense-memories of the components of the story. The parable of the grain reminds us that "good" and "bad" are all bound up together, and it is up to us relying on God to time the harvest and guide the threshers to pull the good from the bad. Wake up, learn with your WHOLE self. God is not just an idea, but an experience that opens us up fully to know God with all our senses.

Why is this so important? Jesus tells the disciples that people's senses have become calloused. They see, but don't really see. They hear, but don't really hear. If they can't let those senses open up, how can they open their hearts to the transformations that God is attempting to work in and through them? Prophets and righteous people have yearned for generations to hear and see what Jesus is doing and saying...and yet so often WE don't open up to let those sensory experiences provoke us to change and growth in God through the Christ.

Our life's work is to experience life, and we do that through the lens of sense. We learn by sensory input...it's a 360-degree journey. Can life and learning in God be anything less? So, let's allow our senses to open and know God more fully, as we seek to make God more fully known.

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