Posted by: Philip Rushton | March 25, 2013

Sense and Spirituality

This past weekend I had the opportunity to participate in some unique spiritual practices that involved a different level of participation than I am used to. The first experience was during our church wide journey to the cross. Between our services our congregation separated into small groups and went through 6 different stations that helped to retell the story of the Easter. I was in charge of the last supper station where we told the story of how Jesus washed his disciples feet before the passover meal. After telling the story we invited people to wash each others feet.

ShowImage.ashxLater that day Julie and I hosted a Seder Passover meal at our home for the first time. The Seder dinner is a symbolic retelling of the Exodus story. Four times during the meal wine is taken, recalling the four terms in the Exodus story which describe God’s action in rescuing the Israelites: “I brought out…I saved…I delivered…I redeemed.” As the meal progresses various foods are introduced to symbolize different aspects of the story. Green vegetables are dipped in salt water and eaten to represent the hope of renewal in the midst of tears, bitter herbs are eaten to represent the bitterness of slavery, unleavened bread is eaten to represent how the Israelites had to eat on the run, and lamb is eaten to represent the paschal lamb that was killed sacrificially so that the angel of death would pass over the house of the Israelites.

What I find meaningful about these rituals is that they help us experience and participate in the story of God’s redemption. It is one thing to read about Jesus washing his disciples feet; it is quite another thing to be invited to wash someones feet for yourself. The hesitancy by which I went about washing the feet of others helped me to understand the humility and servanthood that Jesus models for us. Later, during our Seder dinner, one of the guys at our table was sent into a coughing spell as he tried to swallow the bitter horseradish. This, know doubt, helped to reinforce the bitterness of servitude in a way that simply talking about it would not accomplish.

In Psalm 34 David encourages us to, “taste and see that the Lord is good.” This is a word I think we need to recover in the contemporary protestant church. We do a good job of listening and reading about how the Lord is good, it is the other senses of taste, touch, sight and smell that tend to get neglected. As we enter Holy Week I’d encourage you to find creative ways to engage the Easter story with all of your senses. Perhaps you might partake in communion on Thursday for our Maundy Thursday service, experience the tragedy of Good Friday by going a day without food, or place a flower on the cross on Easter Sunday to symbolize the hope of the Resurrection. These bodily and sensory approaches to spirituality can help us experience God in a profound way.

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