Honey is one of my favourite foods. There are those who are connoiseurs, who distinguish flavours, regions, species of bee, thickness and texture. And though i wouldn't call myself a connoiseur quite, I do know what I like. And I like honey - most kinds. I haven't tasted one yet that I don't like. I've never left a jar unfinished. Whether it's the runny honey that can make eating toast a form of extreme risk sport if you wear a shirt and tie, or the solid light brown stuff that bends the knife as you hack it out and spread it on the scone, or the honey on the comb which gives you hoeny in the raw, with some of the wax, I love them all. Greek Mountain honey that has a tang of liquorice; acacia honey that requires pouring over hot pancakes; Australian eucalyptus which unmistakably conjures images of koala bears; and Scottish Heather honey, none of your blended cheap stuff, the real rich natural coloured honey that was (I'm sure) in the mind of the biblical writers who dreamed of a land flowing with it, and called it the promised land.
Obviously I love sweetness. Syrup and honey - yes and condensed milk, maple syrup, Scottish tablet. I don't just have a sweet tooth, I have a mouth full of them. Maybe because I grew up in a home where my mother baked often, and there was always a Tate and Lyle syrup tin in the house. Those who remember the green and gold tin with the black print, and the small oval panel with a picture of a dead lion, and underneath the biblical riddle, 'Out of the strong came forth sweetness', will now share in a moment's nostalgia.
The connection between syrup and honey, between Greenock (the town where sugar was a major product in Scotland's recent industrial story) and Timnah (the village where Samson killed a lion and later found bees making a hive in the carcass), is the relation of sweetness to power. The riddle Samson told was a taunt to the Philistines; the sugar industry in this country was founded on slavery across the Atlantic. Makes it interesting that in ancient times when refined honey was greatly valued, it could be used as a form of diplomatic gift. The connections between honey and politics, between the sweetness of power and the bitterness of oppression, isn't as fanciful as it first sounds.
Makes it interesting that Doug Gay entitles the lecture he will give in Paisley "Honey from the Lion's Belly.' The biblical allusion is impossible to ignore - but what does it mean? Come along and spend the evening with Doug, and take time to explore together the implications of nationalism as a feature of contemporary Scottish life that could do with some serious theological reflection. Honey from the lion's belly is an allusion that could point discussion in several directions. The reason we've invited Doug to come is to enable us to think carefully and responsibly, about nationalism and national identity, about cultural distinctives and theological perspectives, and to do this from a Christian standpoint. Doug is a practical theologian, and that means he is committed to connecting theology with our lived experience, in our nation and communities. If you are interested and free, it'll be a good night, and an important discussion. Details are on the Scottish Baptist College blog - click on the name on my sidebar of blogs I regularly visit!