Vomitorium in the Sanctuary

Thanks to Guest blogger Mayowa Adebiyi

for more go to https://mayowaadebiyi.wordpress.com/
– we are blog-swapping this week!
As annoying as Stephen Fry is to me as an average religious person, not as a person in terms of personality, though his know-it-all demeanour when presenting QI sure could grate on anyone in real life. I speak instead of his disdain for God albeit a non-existent god. However, this post isn’t about Fry but one of Fry’s many corrections on commonly held historical facts, you know, the type that Alan Davies mentions and Fry’s buzzer goes off to tell Davies he’s wrong (again).

It is commonly (wrongfully) held that the Vomitorium can be found in the average Roman Banquet Hall. After guests have sufficiently gorged themselves and could no more, they had the opportunity to purge their stomach contents, in order to create space for more. This is in fact pure fiction ! The Vomitorium was actually an exit to a Stadium or Amphitheatre.

The myth continues because most are aware of Roman decadence. The idea that they gathered at a particular time and place to feast to their hearts content, eating so much that they need to purge in order to return to their binging not hard to at all imagine. Removing the image of excess from this picture, I’d like to argue that our Sunday mornings should feel like a Banquet, a feast for the senses.

Depending on your personality or church background, your Sunday experience could either be categorised as feeling like a Concert or Lecture. Though these are broad brush strokes and these categorisations by Isaac Wardell isn’t meant to capture which part of the service plays a bigger part, the singing or preaching. Although it could be this, it is but much more.

Identity being such a huge modern day issue and with most modern day issues, the instinct is right, the direction horribly muddled. The orientation of identity formation in the modern day is radically inwards, the world is currently about the self.

The Church is about something and she knows she is, the Sunday gathering points her as a body towards Jesus rather than apart when aimed individually inwards.

One of the themes in the book Eccelesiastes, is the disjointedness of time in a fallen world, the incoherence of past, present and future is acutely felt in a life of hardship bound for eventual demise. Nothing in this post-everything world makes any sense, the past is past, the present is precarious and the future is uncertain. It is in this very time that Jesus enters to offer what he calls eternal life, not as a length of existence but as an infinite improvement of the quality of time in all of its experiential form. The past is redeemed, the present is pregnant with possibilities and the future is sure to burst forth in all kinds of hope.

It is this kind of coherence that a Sunday service should aim for and should do it richly by telling a coherent story in present time. Not just in music, not merely intellectually but richly and decadently. In song, reflection, eating, noise, silence, reading, drinking, we binge on the saviour till we can’t no more.

Candles, Ghosts and Saints

We are big fans of Halloween in this house, and looking forward to a bit of trick-or-treating this Friday. It’s fun getting dressed up and carving pumpkins, and cheers us up after the clocks go back. Like Christmas none of this has got anything to do with the real reason Halloween exists (although some would say the Church is good at hijacking existing festivals as well!)

Halloween is the night before All Saints Day, which was an attempt by the church to avoid having millions of separate Saints days, and an opportunity to remember those Christians who had died for their beliefs. So the night before, people imagined the ghosts of those who have gone before coming back as well as celebrating the lives of the saints the next day. In the times this was established, many people in the UK would have lost their lives for their faith, and although this is unusual now here, it’s still the case in many countries around the world, including places like Turkey where Christians are regularly persecuted.

I think it’s actually really important to spend time thinking about the people who have gone before us, as it forms part of who we are. Like the history programme “Who do you think you are?”, we are made up not just of our individual consciousness, and efforts and achievements, (much as we like to think so) but also a legacy left to us by the previous generations along with their efforts and struggles.

This is something the descendants of immigrants are keen to point out about the UK, at the moment, as the debate heats up in our run up to the elections next year. Many of us are descended from “in-comers” one way or another, especially if you include the Romans and the Vikings! My granny on my Dad’s side was Jewish and her family traveled extensively before settling in the UK, and she really valued the stability and comfort she had later in her childhood, after her mum settled in the UK with her step-father.

Through my quest for enlightenment on my calling into leadership in the church, I’ve been reminded several times through different scriptures and passages, about how important family inheritance is for God  Matthew 1 v17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. There is a full description of every generation, from Abraham to Christ, and some of the people included are not Jews and also Rehab who was a prostitute.

My children are what you call “digital natives” they have grown up with technology and don’t need to be told about it’s benefits or sold on the concept as it’s all around them and forms part of their landscape. For me it’s always been brand new. I remember trying to programme a Sinclair game for most of one Saturday with my friend before we gave up as it didn’t work! I have started harping on at work about how we used to manage without emails when I was a lass!

My childhood was in a christian household and my mum’s childhood was also influenced by her father’s faith, and my father’s by his family, and their parents were influenced by their families again, so I am well and truly a “christian native”. I grew up very much in a christian community, and as the daughter of christian leaders, I was prayed for by other people without even knowing about it. God keeps pointing this out to me, as if to say, your genealogy Becky is a blink of an eye for me, and I know you, I know where you fit in amongst your forebearers.

As an adult I have grown into my faith away from the community I grew up in, where I felt more anonymous and able to ask stupid questions. I totally understand why most people don’t get it, when people talk about God, as for most of my life, I understood the theology but couldn’t see the relevance for my own life and having the theology explained again in a different way didn’t matter, when I had switched off. Until I grew into my own faith, I took my “inheritance” for granted, and at times found it quite a burden in a way, because I didn’t really feel like I knew God at all. I felt the need to leave my native land and “go travelling!” My relationship with God as far I was concerned started when I was about 29 years old and was on my own terms, not just because I was supposed to love God!

Nowadays though I feel blessed that part of my spiritual inheritance, has been prayed into my life, by people I never knew, no longer know or remember as well as through my own efforts and time spent getting to know God for myself.

I am planning to celebrate All Saints Day this year for the first time. I will be saying a prayer for all those who went before me all those who’ve prayed for me over the years, through the good and the bad, and those people who love me, just because they love my mum or dad, and keep on praying just because my Mum preached a good sermon once in their church.I am going to light some candles to keep the beacon of hope alight, and pray for the children of my friends and family that the blessings of God are passed onto them in their lives and that they come to know God themselves one day.

As Billy Joel says in chronicling the historical events that took place during his life..

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it