Rev. George Miller
June 22, 2014
On Wednesday Rita brought in lunch for the Willing Workers- delicious shrimp alfredo, fresh tomatoes, homemade bread and Philadelphia cream cheese bars that smelt like a New York pastry and looked like a lemon bar.
Now, let me tell ya’ll: I make a pretty good lemon bar, and I’ve branched out to make lemon-lime bars, coconut-pineapple-lemon bars, and orange-lemon bars
All of these deserts feature rich, gooey, lemony goodness. The recipe is easy:
3/4 cup of butter. 3 eggs. 1 ½ cup of sugar. 1 ½ cups of flour, plus an extra 3 tablespoons. 2/3 cup of powdered sugar with additional powdered sugar to be sprinkled on the finished product.
But here’s the thing that fascinates me: there’s hardly any lemon used. The last ingredient: 1/4 cup of lemon juice.
If we were going for mass quantity alone, a more accurate name for the dessert would be flour & egg bars, but that just doesn’t have the right sound to it. Although sugar-butter bars does have a ring to it.
Just goes to show that when it comes to baking or cooking sometimes what defines the dish is the lesser of all the ingredients…sort of like ministry.
Ministry is an odd thing- the notion of someone having the responsibility of caring for God’s beloved people.
Ministry has many meanings. If I was to ask each of you what you thought the main task of a minister is, we’d get a variety of answers, but the two main answers would be to preach and to provide care.
But if we were to use the baking analogy and think of ministry as a baked item, like a lemon bar or a homemade pie, we’d quickly realize that preaching and caring are just two ingredients. There are many others, which we witness in today’s reading.
Matthew 9 gives us a brief yet busy glimpse of a day in the life of Jesus’ ministry. It starts off with Jesus sailing across the sea and immediately being approached to provide healing to a paralyzed man.
Later Jesus calls a tax collector to follow him. He shares a meal with sinners. His day is interrupted by two unplanned pastoral emergencies.
But those aren’t the only events in his day. Jesus consoles his leaders, assuring them that they’re doing a good job. There is public relations as talk gets around town about what he has done.
Then there’s a huge chunk of his day spent dealing with criticisms and complaints. Not everyone agrees with how he gets things done; not everyone is ready to embrace the Good News he is offering.
All of these things are ingredients that make up one day of ministry pie.
A few years ago I read this scripture and thought to myself “This story is a litmus test for people who are thinking about the ministry, be it pastors, chaplains, council members, and volunteers.”
If someone reads this passage and crinkles up their nose as if they smell something funny, then it may be a sign that hands-on ministry and church leadership is not for them.
If they say with trepidation “I’ll take a little taste” and then spit it out, well, maybe now’s not the time.
But if they chew for a while and say “yum” or “Give me another big ol’ slice,” then that’s a sign that ministry may just be their calling.
And just like lemon bars, the main ingredient of ministry may not always be what you think.
Let’s look at these 18 verses of Jesus’ day as if they were indeed a recipe for Ministry Pie.
Jesus calls Matthew to discipleship. So that’s one verse, or 5.5% of his day/the story.
Jesus sits and eats with the people. That’s another 5.5% of his day.
Jesus is involved in some kind of healing in three verses, so that’s 16.7% of his day.
22.2% of his day deals with unexpected, unscheduled ministerial needs.
So Jesus spends 49.9% of his day doing hands-on, caring ministry within the community.
That leaves 50.1% of his time-what’s it spent on?
Jesus spends 4 verses with the disciples who are stressed out and worried about what others are saying. So that’s 22.2% of his day dealing with church leadership issues and morale.
Jesus then spends 22.2% of the day dealing with the criticism, comments and laughter of people who are not happy with the way he is doing things or don’t believe what he is saying...
That’s leaves 5.5% of the day, which Jesus has no control over, as people spread the word around town about what he is doing.
That means Jesus has spent 44.4% of the story dealing with conflict resolution and administration.
Those are interesting ingredients for ministry pie now, aren’t they?
Makes me wonder how much more Kingdom-based work Jesus and the disciples could have accomplished if they didn’t have to focus so much attention on that 44.4%...
This is a suitable scripture for today as we prepare for the next 6 months of ministry, as we continue to discern where God is directing us, as we further open ourselves to the limitless possibilities of the Holy Spirit as it continues to guide us in the steps of Jesus Christ.
And who knows just where God is taking us, how God will challenge us or what will be revealed.
We had a glimpse of this on Monday as the Service Committee opened our church doors to the local community and welcomed 25 families consisting of 54 adults and 31 children, greeting them with warm smiles, tasty treats, genuine conversation and they left with three days worth of food.
We’ll have further glimpses of this when we host our third annual Vacation Bible School in July in which the children will worship God, eat fresh cooked meals, participate in Bible-based lessons and engage in various physical, social and arts-based activities.
And we wait and wonder who will be called to be our next Director of Music after July 31.
The Nominating Committee borrows a few ingredients from Jesus as they symbolically walk along the shore, calling forth people to let down their nets and come fish for people.
All of us continue to minster to one another: to those who are hurting, to those dealing with issues of life and death, those who feel like they are lost, lonely or perhaps or unclean.
Should we spend 44.4% of our time and energy judging and criticizing or do we use that time to continue working together, reassuring and lifting up our faithful volunteers and appointed leaders?
Should we spend our time being Monday morning quarterbacks or being fruitful cheerleaders and believing God is using our hands, our hearts, and our abilities to further the Kingdom of Heaven right here on our unique piece of earth?
For the ingredients to work together and to make everything taste oh so good, it means we continue to listen for that Still Speaking Voice.
We balance logic with faith, reality with trust, and the wounds of the world with the magnificent mystery of the Resurrection.
It means we continue to welcome people where they are, as they are, and for who they are.
It means offering the opportunity for wholeness to those who are hurting, no matter the sin, no matter their story.
It means that we never stop seeking first the Kingdom of God and trusting that in Jesus Christ we have enough.
What are the ingredients of Ministry Pie? Micah would say it’s to do justice, to love kindness and to continue walking humbly with our Lord.
It’s such a simple recipe, yet Jesus has simplified it even more “Love the Lord with all you heart and all your soul and love you neighbor as yourself.”
Love and God: 2 ingredients used to make life and ministry a delicious delight.
We began baking nearly 25 years ago when Rev. Loffer and our founding members started our church in a bingo hall.
Are we ready to continue baking for another 25?
Thanks to God we already have the ingredients, thanks to Jesus Christ we already have our Master Chef, and thanks to the Holy Spirit we already have the fire and the heat to do so.
Amen and amen.