September 15, 2014

Slow Down

I’m reading a book this week by the priest, theologian, and amateur cook Robert Capon called Supper of the Lamb. It’s part cookbook and part meditation on life and God. There are recipes and there’s a whole chapter devoted to cutting an onion and there are paragraphs sprinkled throughout on our relationship to the creation.

For example:

"Creation exists in its own right, is no parable, no front, no Punch and Judy show in which God plays all the parts, but a vast and vacuous meeting where each thing acts out its nature, shouts I am I, as if no other thing had being. The world exists, not for what it means but for what it is. The purpose of mushrooms is to be mushrooms; wine is to be wine: Things are precious before they are contributory."

In other words (I think), it’s an appreciation of the creation for what it is, not for what it can do for us. It’s a reminder to stop and look closely at things and appreciate them as the gifts they are.

One of the reasons I’m enjoying the book is that sitting with it feels like stepping outside the flow of things happening in my life and in the world. A book with a chapter about peeling an onion is self-consciously not in a hurry.

A similar unhurriedness is a gift that the Church offers through its liturgy and prayer. Stepping inside a church can feel at times like stepping out of a river onto a quiet shore.

Much of our lives are spent consuming other people’s status updates and absorbing some of the pervasive anxiety about the future that we can feel through the news and changing climate.

The church is not an escape, but it is a place where we take in the world not as a commodity to be consumed but as a gift. Through the liturgical cycles and prayer we can understand life less as a set of stairs to be climbed than as a place we are invited to be, to love and be loved.

Some of us (I’m talking about myself, here) feel, at times, a bit overwhelmed by the world — tattered around the edges, torn up by violence, bombarding us with news and noise. Church isn’t meant to be another thing on our to-do list, another source of anxiety, but a reminder to hope, a place of peace.

What we all need to remember to do, as the church’s program year starts up again this month, is to slow down. To appreciate this world for the gift it is and to accept our small place in it. To slowly chop an onion, to walk in the park without headphones in my ears, to sit in a chapel and pray or sing without worrying about what happens next and simply appreciate the gifts we have been given, so then I can get up again and do the work I have been given to do.