I am heavily invested in the prioritization of “word-media” when it comes to Christian faith. Preaching and teaching, liturgies and lyrics, creeds and books—these are important media forms for the people of God. Scripture itself is a word-based medium.
But what I think some of us wordy folks miss is how biblical words are often at the service of portraying divinely inspired multi-media events.
Take the plagues in Exodus.
The taste of river-blood, the smell of rotting frog flesh, the sound of hail thumping the ground, the sight of approaching locust swarms, the cold touch of a loved one who tragically died in the night—these graphic displays of divine power engage the full range of our senses.
I was reading a book recently emphasizing the role of God’s voice to Moses from the bush. But there was no mention of the fact that the reason Moses postured himself before that voice was because the visual spectacle of that bush in flames had caught his eye.
God is too grand and glorious, too terrifying and tender, to restrict his self-revelation to just one media form. He is a multi-media God, bursting the seams of all media forms available so that he might grasp our attention. In the book of Exodus, he stages a series of what we might call “media events” to make this critical point: No matter how strong the captors, no matter how powerful the oppressors, I am a rescuing God and I will save my people from evil. Those media events were quite frightening, designed as they were to combat Pharaoh and Egypt’s panoply of gods. But many the media events of the God of Israel are full of beauty and sweetness. Think about Elijah on the mountain and that still small voice. Think about the shining glory of his presence filling the Tabernacle. And let’s not forget that night in the upper room when Jesus offered the multi media experience of a sacramental meal.
Are we watching and listening? Have we trained our faculties of perception to notice and see him at work all around us today? He is revealing himself through our sacred texts and through our carefully crafted liturgies. But are we noticing him in the movement of the clouds, in the touch of a child’s hand in ours, in the aromas of a lovingly prepared meal, in the taste of unleavened bread and consecrated wine?