Saturday, July 26, 2008

What's God Cookin Up In The Kingdom Kitchen?

What is your favorite recipe? We had some folks over the other night and a friend said she'd bring her favorite summer salad. I asked her for the recipe too. I love to gather recipes for favorite dishes – it's a wonderful way to strengthen relationships and community by learning about others' traditions and cultures.

Perhaps each of you have a favorite recipe too?

Let's look at the recipe for my friend's summer salad:

3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce

3-ounce package instant ramen noodles (raw)

2 tablespoons sesame seeds
10-ounce bag cole slaw cabbage mix
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Now admittedly, taken by themselves the ingredients may not sound very appetizing. But after whisking together the dressing ingredients

and sautéing the noodles with the sesame seeds and scallions then adding the cranberries and cole slaw cabbage mix and finally tossing the dressing on the noodle mixture, YUM!

Our lives are full of individual events that are like ingredients in the summer salad. Some are sweet, some are slimy, some are raw and rough and some are sour. Taken separately, these events of our lives may not seem good, by themselves, by when whisked by God's grace and blessed with other events; the final product will be good. It's not just our goodness or piety that God intends to use; God's work needs our neediness…our failings, too. Many successes have been based on numerous failures…the inventor of the boomerang said that the success occurred because of all the failings that preceded the final successful version.

I see God taking all of the events of our humanity and creating "good" from all our experiences. It's hard not to judge the goodness of God's work here and now…but has God finished the recipe yet? What is God is cookin' up in the kingdom kitchen?

God has promised to concoct a good kingdom for us. We were adopted as children of God with the waters of our baptism. The baptismal promise that God gives is one of the present as well as the future. We live and participate in the kingdom of God right now. God gave us the gift of salvation through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But, like the summer salad before mixing together, the kingdom is not complete. We are in the "already but not yet" of living in the kingdom. When the recipe is complete, all will be made "good" in Christ.

Like many of you, I find food at the center of community -especially our Christian community. We celebrate the body and blood of Jesus Christ at the table every week and we don't do it by ourselves, we do it "in community". So over my vacation, I read a book about food. The author of the book was quoted to say, "How could I take communion and read the Bible and not feed people?"

Sara Miles was an unlikely candidate for a religious epiphany--a lesbian, with atheist parents and a journalist's view on life with experience as a restaurant cook.

She traveled to war-torn countries reporting on the effects of the war on the citizens, and experienced first-hand how people who are worlds apart, speaking different languages can be brought together by the simple act of sharing food.

She began to see food as the universal bond that ties us together.

Then out of the blue, Sara found herself in St. Gregory's Episcopal Church where she ate a piece of bread, took a sip of wine, and found herself radically transformed. And her desire to share the breaking of bread with those less fortunate became overwhelming.

She set up the St. Gregory's food pantry--a new idea, where, instead of dishing out meals like soup kitchens, the volunteers allow the poor and needy of the area to maintain their dignity by selecting their own groceries and bringing them home to cook their own meals. In no time, the news of the good work in St. Gregory's spread among the community, and now her efforts feed over 450 families each week.

The actions of one person can be significant to others. Margaret Mead said "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches." (Matthew 13:31-32)

Speaking of small, did you know that a mustard seed does not grow into a spreading tree? It grows into a rather dry-looking shrub, a shrub that spreads by spilling seeds that make more shrubs. But Jesus imagines the kingdom of heaven as a mustard seed that grows into a spreading tree, a tree in which the birds come and make their nests. For that to happen, it would take a miracle. So the kingdom of God is the place where miracles happen, where unexpected growth occurs.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to God’s purpose…For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:28, 38-39)

The past year, Holy Trinity has been in the process of transformation…of working together for good. We have told our faith stories, we have answered surveys, we have shared our dreams and hopes for Holy Trinity, we have gathered over 3 days to work on our mission, our values. We have done all this to ask "what is God cookin' up here" - as a way to determine God’s purpose for our community.

What in the world is God up to?
What is God up to in our community?
What is God up to in our congregation?
What is God up to in my life?

God's grace is creative and transforming – just as a master chef can create and transform sour, slimy, sweet, raw and rough ingredients into a delicious summer salad. We can plant the ingredients, the small little seeds, and let God create a good recipe in the kingdom kitchen. God has freely given God's love to us in Jesus Christ. We are known, named and called by God. We are called to be nurturing community where Jesus Christ transforms people's lives and empowers people to make a difference. God will reign and we will walk with each other as sisters and brothers…Thanks be to God!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream

from April 24, 2008

I had an amazing dream last night about our church....young & old folks learning to cook meals in our tremendous kitchen and feeding each other!

When I awoke, my mind just raced about potential of something like this. Here's the flood of thoughts:
* preparing "Dinners by Design" types of meals for families in area (they come prepare in kitchen & freeze then take out and reheat)
* using the monies collected from such a venture for seed money for outreach to the hungry, homeless, &/or unchurched ministries
* pick up meals on their way home from work
* family activity or childcare drop-off times (evenings, weekends)
* inviting hungry/homeless (from food pantry/PADS/others) in for weekend breakfast/lunches
* cooking classes through the Park District
* Intergenerational cooking classes for our church & community
* online cookbooks from collection of favorite recipes
* Thanksgiving (and other holiday) meals for hungry/homeless
* Caring Casseroles - prepare & freeze casseroles to take out to homebound, ill, recuperating, grieving folks

So, now what? Having such a vision/dream is amazingly powerful for me and quite energizing. Planting & sharing it (without it being my idea) with lay leaders so it can either grow into a reality or die a quiet death takes planning & patience & time.

Now it's time for prayer!