The St Albans Cathedral Flower Festival took place at the end of September The theme was ‘Music in Bloom’ and it occurred to me that it is quite a difficult thing to represent one thing via a medium that is completely different. While music requires the ability to sense sound, flower arranging is a creative art that relies on the ability to see and to a lesser extent to be able to smell. However, the exhibitors in the festival seemed to have coped pretty well with this!
We are used to using analogies, explaining something by saying that it is like something else. For example, football is some times called the working class man’s ballet. This is not such a stretch to imagine, in that both involve movement and while some modern ballet can be more muscular than the classical form, some footballers show a balletic sense of balance and grace.
Some people are able to relate quite different forms because their senses work in an unusual way. There are mathematicians who can ‘see’ complex equations and numbers as three dimensional shapes. There are musicians and artists who ‘hear’ colours or see musical notes. For most of us it’s hard to understand how someone can ‘hear’ a colour or ‘see’ a piece of music, although Christian people are used to using analogies to describe God
There are a few good reasons why we use analogies when we talk about God. One is that Jesus often described the Kingdom of God as being ‘like’ something else. Jesus recognised God’s kingdom as being hard for us to understand and so needed to describe it in terms that we can. More often than not, the Bible uses metaphors in describing God, in other words we would read that God is a rock and not just that God is like a rock. Some times these metaphors are mixed as in Deuteronomy 32:18, “You deserted the Rock, who fathered you.”
Our problem is that God is wholly ‘other’. God is not like us, although we are made in his image. God has shown his face to us in his creation and in Jesus, God’s Son, but we must recognise that the language we use about God is limited. Human language is designed to express human ideas and describe human things.
One day we will understand God in a way that now we can only know in part. Until then we must rely upon God’s Spirit to guide us and to help us glimpse God in the way that the artist ‘hears’ his colours or the musician ‘sees’ her music.