In a world mired in pain and illness and devastation, we in church circles like to talk a lot about suffering.. And the hope and the good that can from it. And – there is a lot of suffering. And, quite frankly, there is a lot in the BIble about the. Hope, the good. Beauty from ashes. And because this narrative gives us the resilience we need to stay afloat during the stormy seasons, we sometimes tend to over spiritualize suffering and under spiritualized good and sensual pleasure.
I don’t want to talk about the ashes. Not today anyways.
And I don’t want to downplay or bypass the spiritual experiences to be had through grief, lament, loss and pain and sickness.
I do, however, want to give all the praise for all the pleasure that God has been so kind to let us indulge in in this life.
When you hear the word indulge, what connotation does that give you?
I think of indulging in something as doing something I probably shouldn’t be doing. It comes across as selfish, sinful even.
But all indulging means is to allow oneself to enjoy pleasure.
Let’s indulge your imagination for a moment…
Imagine the perfect bath.
What are you feeling?
What are you seeing?
What are you tasting?
What are you smelling?
What are you listening to?
I happen to love a good bath. There was a season before I became a mother, when I would take regular baths that would serve as my quiet time of sorts with God. But not because I meant for it to. That’s just what it became. I’d usually have bubbles – probably a eucalyptus scent. I’d turn off the lights and light a candle. I’d have some hot tea – probably cinnamon spice tea sweetened with honey. And I would put on a guided prayer or some worship music. I would close my eyes. And relax… and eventually relax in relationship, with my God – because I would experience God’s peace, God’s goodness. And God’s pleasure.
I know this all sounds rather romantic for a quiet time, and I suppose it was. It is. And I don’t mean to romanticize God. But, I do mean to invite you to consider how you might can embody God’s kindness through everyday sensual experiences. I’d like for you to start noticing how you feel when you remember, when you think about these pleasurable, sensual moments.
Maybe it’s not a bath for you. It could be running or swimming. Dancing or singing. Painting or baking. But not for the sake of producing. Not for the sake of losing weight or getting in shape or feeding your children. Not for the sake of performing. No. For the sake of pleasure.
Do you ever do that? Something for the sake of pleasure?
I remember the spring of 2020s sheltered in place, quarantine life. If you were to go revisit your friends’ Instagram feeds in those days, you just might be reminded how much baking, how much sourdough bread making some of us were doing. Because we could. And because, well, sourdough bread is good.
I think sometimes we forget to do things like make sourdough bread just because. Everything must become a means to an end, but never an end in and of itself.
I think pleasure is a misunderstood word. It sounds selfish, it sounds sexual, which means it probably sounds sinful too. And I think that most women are really bad it. Especially women who tend to prioritize the caring of another – whether that’s a partner, a child, multiple children, a parent.
And I even see sometimes people shoot down the concept of “self care” because the caring of one’s self somehow feels unholy. I know I’ve been tempted to think about self-care that way. For a Christian who has called to lay down our lives for another, how could self-preservation possibly what God intended for us?
I’m not sure when it occurred to me that pleasure could be holy. But I know now it can. I want you to know that too. Because in order to care for others, I have to learn to care for myself. And care for self includes not avoiding that which you find pleasurable.
And perhaps pleasure can be just another doorway to experiencing God?
Where have you suppressed pleasure in your life?
When was the last time you indulged in something good? Without any guilt or shame?
How can you prioritize your own pleasure this week?
Now let’s respond to a God who is present in that which is pleasurable, a God who delights in us and allows us to delight in them.
Lectio Divina is an ancient liturgical practice for praying the scriptures. It is a Latin phrase that means “sacred reading.” It is a way of praying and listening for the still, small voice of God speaking through gentle reading or listening of scripture. Lectio Divina has also been known as “listening with the ear of the heart.”
I’m going to read from Psalm 149, a psalm of praise and of pleasure.
As you settle into a place of loving openness, in a posture or position to listen more deeply, I’ll read the selected scripture three times. After each reading, there will be a moment of silence.
In this first reading from Psalm 149, listen for a word or a phrase that draws your attention.
In this second reading, consider how this passage touches your life today.
In this third reading of the scripture, consider if there is an invitation for you in this coming week.
Sing to the Lord a new song,
his praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel celebrate its Maker;
let the children of Zion rejoice in their King.
Let them praise his name with dancing
and make music to him with tambourine and lyre.
For the Lord takes pleasure in his people;
he adorns the humble with salvation.
Let the faithful celebrate in triumphal glory;
let them shout for joy on their beds.
O Generous God,
Creator of my five senses
Giver of desires
Thank you for the gift
Of this good body
This good body that you’ve given me for pleasure
This good body that you’ve given me for worship
Help me, Caring Savior
To be kind to this very good body
To delight in this very good body
To taste your goodness
To see your grace
To feel your peace
To hear your kindness
To taste your glory
For the many, many ways you let me experience your love for me
I give you thanks.