Rarely do we get four readings that are so full of imagery and story that they equally delight old and young. We have the story of the Conversion of Paul, a wonderful rejoicing Psalm,
(which for what it’s worth, reminds me of the single Head above Water by Avril Lavigne), a snippet from Revelation and the story of the third sighting of Jesus after the resurrection as recorded in the Book of John, a wonderful set of images of fisherman. Today is not a day I would like to be responsible for the leading of the congregation, no, I lie, it is the day I would love to have that responsibility.
Regardless of whether you are using a traditional or more experimental form of worship, there is one overriding detail, most in ministry may overlook, and that is that these readings require a degree of imagination to process them.
Dripping with metaphor, these readings use everyday images to tease out a thought, so it goes beyond what is written. Thus, we have the light, blinded and blinding Saul, so that in his blindness he may truly see the unseeable. Psalm 30 juxtaposing negative with positive images, so strongly that it sounds like a modern day mental health advertisement. Revelation, written entirely in metaphor, shouts a cacophony of sound through this passage, as we imagine the singing. Then in the third sighting of Jesus, we have the metaphor of baptism in Peter’s action, an image of nakedness that recall Genesis and beginnings, the recounting of the three denials in Peter’s response to Jesus’s questions, and the metaphor of fishers “of men”. The words all building up a picture beyond the word as written. Stretched by our imagination.
But all of this starts in the concrete, in the things we have around us, that we can feel see and touch. As children, we learn about the concrete world around us through our senses, we become concrete thinkers, before we start to understand metaphor. This view is also expressed in the work of Montessori, where she used play with everyday objects, to teach children, who inoculated their learning back into their families in the ghetto in Rome.
In our congregations, we have all these thinkers, those who are learning from the concrete and those who can jump immediately to the metaphor, some will be happy with the images in their head, other’s will be inspired by a visual or a physical response from those wanting to have the swim, to those creating verbal or visual images. How much permission we give people to explore in or beyond worship is important to their faith development because without imagination we fail to grow, in this case in our faith.
For further reading try Godly Play An Imaginative Approach to Religious Education by Jerome W. Berryman Chap.6 (1991, Augsburg, NY)
And Beyond Literal Belief: Religion as Metaphor by David Tacey (2015, Garratt Publishing, Mulgrave)