Taste and See

In a recent sermon by Jason Little at our church, he made mention of new medical devices meant to substitute one sense for another, i.e., that allow blind people to see by routing sensory information through touch. Specifically, the devices work like this: a camera attached to the patient’s body compresses visual information into a small, gray, pixellated square, the coding of which is then converted into tiny electrical charges that are mapped onto a corresponding sheet placed on the patient’s tongue. The tongue then interprets this map and routes it through the brain, which interprets it as vision.

Basically, the device works like one of those pin art things, except the pins are on your tongue and you can train your brain to create images this way. Or it’s like echolocation, but with your tongue. Whatever–it’s a tongue-centric process.

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The concept that blind people can learn to see through taste struck my imagination, and it seemed like a perfect illustration of spiritual truth.

Of course, as fallen humans, we’re blind to the truth of the spiritual realities underlying the visible world, and we’ve desensitized ourselves from spiritual perception. Blindness is a consistent metaphor for sinful rebellion in the Scriptures.

But the healing of blindness is also linked with the apprehension of spiritual truth (Jesus’ words to John the Baptist’s messengers, the scales falling from Paul’s eyes). And, more significantly, there’s Psalm 34:8: “taste and see that the Lord is good!”

Taste and see. The psalmist is seeing with his tongue. He tastes of the savor of God’s mercy and “sees” the Lord’s goodness.

And of course we are also invited to taste and see. Every week at our church, following the sermon, we celebrate the eucharist together–that concrete, sensory experience meant to tie together the spiritual and the material. In the Supper, we use our senses to apprehend a spiritual truth, the truth of redemption. The truth on our tongue heals the blindness of our spiritual eyes.

Augustine argues that God provided Jesus in the flesh because our worldly hearts only worship what we can see and touch. Everything else that fits this description is an idol, because God is Spirit. But in Jesus, the exact thing to which we are blind becomes, in a divine conversion, something we can sense. For Augustine, Jesus is God’s merciful accommodation to our desire for sensate worship. Jesus is the God that we can see.

He’s also the God that we can taste, spiritually feeding on Him in the bread and wine. Now, no longer bodily present with us, He has provided another means by which we can “see” Him. When we forget the invisible God, let us remember to see with our tongues.

 

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