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As annoying as Stephen Fry is to me as an average religious person, not as a person in terms of personality, though his know-it-all demeanour when presenting QI sure could grate on anyone in real life. I speak instead of his disdain for God albeit a non-existent god. However, this post isn’t about Fry but one of Fry’s many corrections on commonly held historical facts, you know, the type that Alan Davies mentions and Fry’s buzzer goes off to tell Davies he’s wrong (again).
It is commonly (wrongfully) held that the Vomitorium can be found in the average Roman Banquet Hall. After guests have sufficiently gorged themselves and could no more, they had the opportunity to purge their stomach contents, in order to create space for more. This is in fact pure fiction ! The Vomitorium was actually an exit to a Stadium or Amphitheatre.
The myth continues because most are aware of Roman decadence. The idea that they gathered at a particular time and place to feast to their hearts content, eating so much that they need to purge in order to return to their binging not hard to at all imagine. Removing the image of excess from this picture, I’d like to argue that our Sunday mornings should feel like a Banquet, a feast for the senses.
Depending on your personality or church background, your Sunday experience could either be categorised as feeling like a Concert or Lecture. Though these are broad brush strokes and these categorisations by Isaac Wardell isn’t meant to capture which part of the service plays a bigger part, the singing or preaching. Although it could be this, it is but much more.
Identity being such a huge modern day issue and with most modern day issues, the instinct is right, the direction horribly muddled. The orientation of identity formation in the modern day is radically inwards, the world is currently about the self.
The Church is about something and she knows she is, the Sunday gathering points her as a body towards Jesus rather than apart when aimed individually inwards.
One of the themes in the book Eccelesiastes, is the disjointedness of time in a fallen world, the incoherence of past, present and future is acutely felt in a life of hardship bound for eventual demise. Nothing in this post-everything world makes any sense, the past is past, the present is precarious and the future is uncertain. It is in this very time that Jesus enters to offer what he calls eternal life, not as a length of existence but as an infinite improvement of the quality of time in all of its experiential form. The past is redeemed, the present is pregnant with possibilities and the future is sure to burst forth in all kinds of hope.
It is this kind of coherence that a Sunday service should aim for and should do it richly by telling a coherent story in present time. Not just in music, not merely intellectually but richly and decadently. In song, reflection, eating, noise, silence, reading, drinking, we binge on the saviour till we can’t no more.