Reflection: July 29

Published on Jul 30th, 2018 by Rev. David Boyd | 0

         A couple of years ago, Janet and I went to a continuing education event in Osoyoos; it was at the Spirit Ridge Resort… you know, the Nk’Mip winery. It was a lovely week and it was focused on clergy self-care with significant others.  It was partly focused around a new psychological test aimed at helping people be the best that they can be in leadership; the test is called Emotional Intelligence.  The group leading us were from Minnesota and the lead presenter was both a psychologist and a Methodist (I believe) minister.  It was an excellent week and the surprising thing was that so many of us are so bad at self-care!

         One of the little exercises we did was around savouring.  This isn’t a new movement, per se, but it is not something that we in the West are particularly good at; we don’t savour well.  We specialize in fast food.  So, after our lunch break—or some break—we all walked into our meeting space and sat down.  There was a small package of raisins in each place.  No one knew exactly what this was about nor what we should do.  Some opened the little box and began to eat the raisins; others just looked puzzled.  And some of us kind of thought that something was going on and were just curious.  Sure enough, the leader came in and smiled, looked around at us in a pregnant pause, and said that we were a typical group. (Now, every group hates to be told that it is typical!)  He said, “There are always a few who start to eat the raisins, a few who just turn the box over wondering what’s going on, and a few who know something’s probably up, but aren’t sure what’s going to happen.”  We all laughed!

         And then, we did an exercise on savouring.  Thich Nhat Han, the Buddhist teacher and writer, has written about savouring.  It isn’t anything new as I said, but especially in the West, we’ve lost the impetus to appreciate our food or any given moment.  We tend to bolt our food down and get on to other things.  We don’t even chew enough so medical professionals tell us.  While we probably don’t eat fast food a lot, we eat our food fast!

         We were asked to look at the box of raisins, slowly open the box, take out one raisin, feel, smell it, look at it, and then, taste it.  Hold it in our mouths for a moment, and then slowly chew it.  You can imagine—as you are probably doing right now—that we all just wanted to get on with things!  “What do you mean; what’s all this namby-pamby stuff?”  And then we talked about it in small groups before the leader offered some thoughts about savouring and taking time.

         To bring it a close, our leader asked questions of us: what do you savour in life?  Do you savour relationships, theology, being intentional about acts of justice?  Do you savour your own life by caring for it with intention and energy?  What do you savour in terms of what happens around the world?  A political perspective?  A sense of community and global partnership?  Hope for a new world?  What do you savour about the church?  The people? Intentional acts of local justice-making?  Worship? Partnerships with local groups?  And what about your denomination?  What does it savour in terms of where it puts its emphasis?

         Who knew?!  All those questions from savouring!

         Do you think Jesus was inviting a moment of savouring when out with the many people in the country and it was dinner time?  Savouring probably wasn’t a thing back then.  I do know that for Jesus, eating was important and more than just a means to an end.  Eating was about hospitality; it was about being with others.  It was about healing, about conversation, about conversion, about coming together across divides.  Jesus intentionally ate with outcasts; he intentionally crossed borders.  He savoured life and taught those around him—and us—to appreciate the gifts of God and then go out and share them.

         When I was in Palestine a few years ago, we went to a small community of Bedouins.  Most Bedouins are settled now and use modern practices of herding—quads and so forth.  This Bedouin community was in danger of being dismantled by the Israeli authorities and received little or no funding for education, clean water, sewer or any other infrastructure.  But it was Bedouin in an area of the world where a meal is extremely important.  We were greeted by the Sheikh—the leader of the little community.  We sat on cushions on the ground in the meeting hall.  The Sheikh didn’t speak English, but his nephew did and was our host. We had tea boiled on an open fire. There were speeches.  And then we ate, sumptuously, slowly and an abundance of food.  Fifty of us were in groups of 5 or 6 and we each ate from a common bowl—rice, Middle-Eastern salad, pita, and chicken with vegetables.  And there was so much food left over!

         Sound familiar?!

John, in telling the feeding of the multitudes story, as Laura explained in the background, drew parallels with Moses, one of which involved the manna from heaven story.  The people complained that they were hungry and they went to Moses and demanded food.  Sure enough, the next morning… Manna from heaven and enough for everyone.

         John invites us to look beyond what is merely obvious to see more deeply into the mystery of life, to see the deeper connections and meanings, and to see that there is enough. And that’s all about savouring.

         I have to confess that I’ve followed our General Council meeting this past week in Oshawa somewhat—not diligently.  And I’m left wondering about savouring.  What are we savouring as a church?  I was disappointed when an Ordained minister from a 1stNations community lost out to Richard Bott on the last ballot as Moderator; what a wonderful symbol of openness and intention with respect to relationships with 1stNations people to have elected Susan Beaver.  The church also passed the enactments of the changes to our structure without much opposition according to the reports; who are we doing this, and what are we savouring?  What are we saying about who we are in the world?  Or at least in Canada?  Part, I think, is that we are not savouring and we are saying that the presentation of the food is more important than the substance and what we’re doing, who’s invited, and who we are at table with.  I look forward to talking to Jody and Greg and to hear first-hand what went on.

We savour when we focus on abundance in our lives and gratitude.  When we are focused on what we don’t have, we hoard things and grasp for things.  When we graciously know that there is enough—enough love, enough hope, enough resources, enough food!—that all life can flourish, we can slow down; we can stop.  We can say thank you.  We can be more intentional about who we are and what we’re doing.

         Do we savour the good news that we are not alone, that we live in God’s world, and that God acts through us for compassion, justice, peace and hope?  We are called humbly to speak the good news in the face of entertainment programs, movies, sports and art that rewards superficiality—that favours form over substance; to be in community together, to share the simple things of the earth with thanks, and to love one another across our differences—that’s savouring!

         Amen.

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