Imagine going to a really good restaurant, one that has Michelin stars or some similar accolade, a fantastic ambiance and staff who really care about what they are doing. In common with many of you this has been altogether too rare an experience for me; but I invite you to imagine it along with me in any case. You are welcomed into the restaurant, your coat is hung up for you and you are seated at your table. Music plays, menus are delivered and the great sense of anticipation builds. A choice is made and the food ordered. There then follows a period in which those designated with the responsibility and privilege of preparation go about their task using all of the skill and diligence that their experience has bestowed on them. Finally, the moment comes; the meal is brought to the table.
First impressions do not disappoint, it looks magnificent. We are often told that we eat a meal firstly with our eyes and its true, food needs to look good. Not just that though, it needs to smell good too, not just good but great. We want our salivary glands to be activated in advance of the first mouthful in order to get the full impact of the taste. All of this enhances our enjoyment of what is to come but none of it approaches the gastronomic pleasure of really tasting and eating the food. Without the savouring of the flavours, seasonings, textures and contrasts between the ingredients all of the preparation goes by the board and you never get the full benefit of the experience. So imagine how strange it would be to have such a meal brought to your table and then to decide not to eat it. More than that, to get up, pay for the meal, even leave a tip and then leave the restaurant. The meal remains on the table but nobody has really gained any real benefit from it. That’s not just strange, that is downright peculiar, not to mention disrespectful.
My purpose in this preamble is to try and draw some kind of analogy, so here it is. Listening to a talk on Sunday morning and not allowing it to feed us is a bit like the scenario I have tried to describe. Let me explain. When somebody presents a talk on a Sunday they will have prepared it carefully and done their best to bring their skill and experience to it. Their purpose is not to display their own abilities but to provide those of us listening with a perspective on a passage or theme which will lead us into further reflection, consideration and even digestion.
We can do this in different ways but however we find it easiest it will result in God’s love and character being revealed to us more and more by the Holy Spirit, simply because we have given Him enough space in our lives to speak to us deeply and meaningfully.
If we ever think to ourselves that we didn’t get much from a particular talk on a Sunday, perhaps we should go back to the Holy Spirit and ask Him what He was trying to communicate to us because we were not paying close enough attention the first time. That would only be respectful, wouldn’t it?