As we begin our annual round of Harvest Festivals, I have been thinking about how important 'taste' is to us. As very small babies as soon as we find something new, we put it in our mouth! If it's nice, it stays there, if not we spit it out! As we grow, we tend to use our hands and eyes more than our mouths but taste still remains important to us. We even use the word to describe our preferences for something - 'I like the way she has decorated her home, clearly a woman of taste.' 'He's a nice chap but I'm not sure about his taste in music.' Taste is something which remains an important part of our lives long after we start using our others senses. King David was aware of this and included it when writing in Psalm 34: "O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him." But there is a problem, as we get older we start using our intellect too allowing it to override our primary senses and deciding whether we want to taste or not. I have a relative who hated mushrooms. She had never tried one it was just the thought of them that turned her off. Then one day in her early teens she lost a bet and was forced to eat one. Total revelation! Today she is a connoisseur and an expert in collecting wild mushrooms. "Taste and see…"
Often when we smell (another form of tasting) a familiar aroma, it can bring certain memories flooding back to us, re-enforcing the importance of taste in our lives. When Brian Keenan was held hostage in Lebanon, he was kept in darkened cellars away from all that was familiar. In his book 'An Evil Cradling' he tells how, towards the end of his captivity, his captors brought him an orange. He was so overwhelmed by its beauty, its texture and its scent that he found himself quite unable to eat it. It remained in his small cell until it eventually rotted away.
Now Brian's experience was clearly unique but how often do we take for granted what we have around us? How often do we intellectualise something to the point that we are no longer prepared to 'taste and see'? Aromas stimulate our memories simply because we have tasted. And when we don't taste something we miss out on so many new experiences and also deny ourselves the memories that will be evoked later on by the same scents and aromas. Life is so short - even those who live to ninety or more will say the same - and we have so much to experience and to taste. But how often do we, like Brian Keenan, leave something special to rot away?
As we celebrate this harvest season, giving thanks that we have so much and remembering those who have so little, let's look around us and see what lies undiscovered. And let's recognise that everything around us is a gift from God and as we taste all that he has given us, lets be bold, take it a stage further to 'taste and see that the Lord is good.' As we do that, we will also find that 'happy are those who take refuge in him'
I wish you all a very happy and adventurous autumn as you 'taste and see…'
Rev David Sherwood