“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” A.W. Tozer
What comes into your mind when you think of God? Perhaps you think of God as a loving parent? Great.
Or as gracious, kind and forgiving? Perfect!
Loving? Spot on.
But what about... God as a foodie? Hmmmm....
In a blog post a couple weeks ago, I confessed that I'm mildly addicted to Masterchef Australia at the moment.
There... I said it. Judge me, or don't judge me. That's up to you. But don't knock it till you've tried it.
During my days I've been studying my Masters in Theology course - digging deep into various books and journals. Learning and thinking about God and God's plans for creation, and how we're invited to live and act within God's creation.
In some of our free evenings, my wife and I have been enjoying watching the incredible amateur Masterchef cooks create the most astonishing dishes of culinary delight.
Recently, though, I started wondering:
Is this stuff - these highbrow cultural explorations of 8 course Dégustation meals, plates of food that look like art pieces, Michelin star kitchens - is this all, ultimately, a bit of a distraction from the mission and focus of God? Surely, with all the starving people in the world, the political & climate storms brewing, and the millions of people that don't know or follow God... Surely this stuff of tasty food is not important to God, and so it probably shouldn't be that important to Christians?
Maybe you've thought like this, consciously or unconsciously? Maybe you think like this about the things you enjoy in life? Maybe you think like this about your job or where you spend most of your time?
A superficial distraction. Something to keep me busy.
But I started thinking for a bit. I started trying to join the dots between my theology books and my delight in a Thai green curry bursting with zingy, aromatic, creamy flavours.
I started thinking about how the Bible introduces us to God: as the first Creative being! The first pages of scripture remind us that God has created not a monochrome, 2D, flat, un-enchanted world. God has not created a world that is purely functional; one that just 'works'...
God has created a universe to be enjoyed.
Sit with that for a moment. It's the sort of phrase that's easy to skim past. It's easy to think that we agree with it, but actually it's not how we feel in the deep honest places of our heart.
God has created a universe to be enjoyed.
In the Genesis story, the first humans were placed in a Garden of Delight! ('Eden' means delight!) The God of the Bible - the Grand Designer of the universe - seems to LOVE colours and creativity and diversity and flavours and smells. If you don't naturally think of this when you think about the earth, can I invite you to watch David Attenborough's Planet Earth documentary series with a heart-posture of worship. It will blow. your. mind.
Or, just go for a walk in a park and take time to notice how incredible creation is. Be slow and quiet enough for you to get to the good stage.... the savouring stage.
(the best theological term for this might be 'contemplation'... more on that in another blog post to come!)
So... Getting back to my question about what God is like and what God cares about.
What if this is what God is like?
What if the world around us, with its endless beauty and extravagance, does actually show us what God is like?
Psalm 19, in the Message paraphrase, begins like this:
God’s glory is on tour in the skies,
God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.
Madame Day holds classes every morning,
Professor Night lectures each evening.
Their words aren’t heard,
their voices aren’t recorded,
But their silence fills the earth:
unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.
Gosh that's a good line: 'unspoken truth is spoken everywhere'.
So, creation tells us of God's glory, and points towards what God is like - beautiful and creative and colourful and interesting and majestic. This Psalm is saying our understanding of what God is like should be shaped by a glorious sunset, or a clear starlit night sky.
As amazing as this is to think about, I think the real penny-drop-moment for me was when I reshaped the question...
'What is God like?'
But reshaped into:
'What does God like?'
What if God really likes this stuff?
What if God really enjoys creation? Not just accepts it. Not just puts up with it. What if God experiences the good and beautiful things of creation joyfully?
What if God finds joy in our enjoyment of natural creation? When we marvel at the towering El Capitan cliff-face, or stand in awe before an ordinary but glorious English Oak tree in our local park, or hear the early-morning bird-song as we rise from bed, or notice the first trees to turn the roasted amber of Autumn... What if, as we enjoy natural creation, God enjoys it with us?
But... I wonder if we can take this even further...
I wonder if God delights not only in the work of God's own 'hand' - eg, natural creation - but whether God also delights in the work of our hands?
The Message paraphrase of Psalm 90 finishes like this:
And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us,
confirming the work that we do.
Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do!
In my very first blog post - 'The Maker's makers' - I explored how Genesis reveals God to us:
He could have revealed himself as a master with his minions, or as a warrior with his army, a teacher with his students, a crafty magician with his spellbound followers... But instead, he reveals himself as a Creator with us as His Co-creators.
God puts humanity into a specific garden - the garden of delight - and then invites humanity to participate in 'Project Eden' (aka 'Project Delight'): extending this realm of joyful shalom and delight to the ends of the world.
I've talked before (some might say ad nauseam) of how scholars see this as the 'Cultural Mandate': God's invitation and commissioning of human beings to take the raw materials of God's creation and build a world of flourishing: of delightful, colourful, diverse, just, complex joy-producing and worship-inspiring beauty.
A world of electricity and Tesla's and iPhones (and Google Pixels!). A world of homes and cathedrals and skyscrapers. A world which includes Narnia and Middle-earth and Alice's Wonderland and Huxley's Brave New World. A world of families and communities and congregations. A world of corporations and charities and 'working-from-home-Fridays'. A world of antibiotics and neuroscience and space travel. A world of Mozart's Requiem, Abbey Road, Mayer's 'Gravity', and Stormzy being blinded by grace at Glastonbury.
And yes... A world of tasty, culinary creations.
And the specific point I'm leading to is this:
God wants this. God's asked us to pursue this. Not because God has any 'need' as such. But, as best as I can make out, it gives God not only glory, but pleasure.
God is pleased when creation is cultivated and humans use all that we have at our disposal - raw materials, creativity, inspiration and one another - to actively partner with God to 'take the world somewhere'. God is pleased when we create beautiful things: symphonies and sonnets, soups and sorbets.
These are not 'distractions'. They're right at the very heart of God's plans and purposes. Because of the very nature of who God is, our cultural endeavours have meaning and purpose and are worthwhile. Because God finds joy in our cultural endeavours.
After all this.... Perhaps the best way of summing things up is this:
God is a foodie.