I recently read an article by a priest I admire who defended criticism against him by stating that he is not a theologian.
To be fair, according to academic standards, he may be correct since he doesn’t have a doctoral degree in systematic theology. But, if one must have a doctorate to be able to speak of God, the church and the academy have done a great disservice in distancing God from the human experience.
In contrast to academic exclusion, Jesus spoke of God using common experience. Jesus described God as a mother hen gathering her brood under her wings and as a common shepherd who cares for his flock. Jesus sees the work of God in the clothing of the lilies of the field and the feeding of the birds of the air.
The very word theology can be translated as “God-talk.” Anyone who speaks of God is doing theology. However, I would like to push this idea even farther. An understanding of God is not limited to our words, but engages all of our senses.
In today’s scripture, Jesus warned of those who were invited to a great banquet but did not come. The scripture ends with a frustrated host saying, “none of those men who were invited will taste my dinner.'”
When have you tasted God’s dinner? When have you experienced God through all of your senses?
Today, I tasted grace as I received Holy Communion with the Free Store community.
I heard grace in the testimony of people sharing how God answered prayer in their lives.
I smelled grace in the dinner Jennifer lovingly made for our family.
I saw grace in our older son caring for his younger brother.
I touched grace as I embraced familiar friends.
However, I not only experienced grace in all of my senses, but had the greater blessing of allowing others to experience the dinner of God’s abundance. I saw others touch it as they filled bags with lettuce and cucumbers and sweet potatoes from the market. I watched people taste it as they sampled a potato bake I made from market vegetables. I heard people exclaim it in the eagerness of the Tuesday morning prayer team who couldn’t wait to pray for others.
You don’t have to have academic initials after your name to begin to understand who God is, you can hear, see, touch, smell, and taste it. If you are really lucky, you even might be the hands that bring that flavor of God’s love to someone else’s table.