It’s 16th Century England, King Henry VIII sits on the throne, and the recently ignited Protestant Reformation has found kindling on the isles and spreads rapidly with the help of traveling plays and dramas. Extraordinary stories of God’s love and redemption of man, visual representations of theological principles and the struggle between virtue and vice, and incredibly anti-papal and anti-Catholic propaganda were spread throughout the country by playwrights and actors sympathetic to the Protestant cause. “A feast of words is the way I describe it when you read plays like this,” explains Jeff Leininger as he discusses his research surrounding this topic. “It’s a feast of words. If you can imagine [living in this time period], you’re hungry to hear beautiful things. You can’t just listen to a podcast, the most words that you encounter at one time during the week is on Sunday morning.”
Feasting on words. Devouring a text. Hanging onto every syllable of a sermon. Sitting in awe of the beauty of the language. So often, we cheapen and colloquialize our communications in our daily lives, producing little more than casual entertainment or condemnation. We fail to recognize that in doing so, we starve ourselves and each other of the nourishment we receive when reading or hearing something beautiful and powerful and artistic. These are the works that effect change, those that cause you to turn ideas over in your mind, that spark discussion and debate, that ignite wonder and excitement.
“When a speech was given or a sermon was given or a theater company comes in, they’re preparing a feast of words that people will sit there and listen to for hours, and feast on this beautiful language… even when literacy starts to expand, the first things that happen are that one person would read and the whole pub or the whole farm would gather around to listen, before people could read for themselves.”
You would not define a man eating alone as having attended a banquet or feast, and likewise when we are really feasting on words, there’s an aspect of community that must be activated. While the man will leave the table with his belly full either way, it is the company that turns the necessary physical practice into a joyous and memorable occasion. When we experience a feast of words, it is a much more joyous and fulfilling experience when we share it with others, regardless of whether that entails watching a play as part of an audience, or feverishly discussing the ideas espoused in a book or speech. We feast, and enjoy, and grow together.
So, feast away…I know you must be hungry.
This article is a brief examination of the “metaphorical and theological rugby match” that was this week’s episode of Ringside Preachers. Listen to Rev. Joel Hess, Rev. Paul Koch, Rev. Ross Engel, and guest Rev. Dr. Jeff Leininger as they duke it out over the English Reformation, plays as propaganda, the wives of Henry VIII, and more on the full Ringside Preachers episode, “Drama, Propaganda, and the Gospel with Guest Jeff Leininger”
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