‘Taste and see that the LORD is good.
How happy is the person who takes refuge in him!’
– Psalm 34:8
This is the third part of a series of posts looking at Lesslie Newbigin’s description of the church. For him the church was missional. She carried with her the kingdom of God and invited others to be partners in the kingdom. His metaphors shape the way we practice mission today.
Imagine it’s Father’s Day. You wake up to the smell of coffee. The bacon is sizzling away in the fry pan. And you anticipate the ‘crunch’ of the first bite of toast or hash brown. Just close your eyes and imagine it.
Father’s Day isn’t really like this in our family. Instead, I am woken up by children jumping on me, one normally squashing my head. But there is something about smells and sounds that create a sense of anticipation.
Creating Foretaste – A Chef’s Perspective
I spent many years working as a chef. I want to share how my professional experience shapes missional practice. Chefs know how to create a foretaste. We know that dining is not simply a matter of eating but an experience. For a chef, the food is the high point but it does not stand alone.
Restaurants work hard on creating the right ‘feeling.’ White tablecloths convey a different message to a bare table. And your expectation adjusts accordingly. It may be subtle, but atmosphere gives a foretaste about what is coming.
The aroma of beef ragu hit me when I stepped into the kitchen. I instantly wanted some. That’s the power of smell. Starbucks knows this. They asked their employees not to wear perfume because it distracts from the aroma of the coffee. Simply put, aromas linger in the air and they create desire.
People eat with their eyes first. I learnt this as an apprentice. Who hasn’t been at a restaurant, seen the food at another table, and said I want that? Or maybe when you’ve been given your meal thought, ‘This is going to taste is good.’ The sight of good food makes us anticipate its taste.
An Example of a Foretaste of God’s kingdom
House of Praise is a local church in my area. Every Christmas the church organises Operation Christmas Hamper for people in need in the community. What started out as a small project has grown to over 3000 hampers each year.
The hampers are a foretaste of God’s kingdom. They are an act of love, an expression of blessing from those who are blessed. This is evident for those receiving the hampers. The gift says there is a community of people who care. It calls them to taste the generousity of God.
But there is a second aspect to the hampers as a foretaste of God’s kingdom – the packers. Church volunteers packed (and supplied) the hampers when the project began. But there’s been a shift. Business and organisations now take part as well. They help donate food and finances to the hampers. Even more significantly, they help pack the hampers.
Don’t underestimate this change. Employees are working alongside church volunteers doing kingdom work. The followers of Jesus are inviting people to join them in what God is doing. And in doing so, they are asking them to experience what God is like.
Isn’t this a tangible foretaste of God’s kingdom?
Newbigin’s 3 missional images all have similarities. They call followers of Jesus to publicly live out their faith. But they are nuanced. To be a sign of God’s kingdom means pointing to Jesus. It’s about turning the attention toward him. To be an instrument of God’s kingdom means permeating our networks and neighbourhoods with the sound of the gospel. It is calling forth God’s peace, beauty, healing and salvation. And to be a foretaste of God’s kingdom is all about experience. It is inviting others to experience God at work and join in what he is doing.
Which of these images has resonated most with you?