I am not one for New Year’s resolutions. I don’t work on a preaching plan or a weekly menu for dinner. I might consider what the next year might bring, but New Year’s resolutions always seem an exercise in futility. I will have goals for my life, but rarely do they correspond with the end of one calendar year and the beginning of the next.
For some time, I have however, been playing with the concept of food and faith, cooking and preaching and how these two arts or disciplines compliment one another. Recently I have been wrestling with two questions: Why do I preach? Why do I cook?
The question of preaching is fundamental to my ministry. Yet, I was never once asked that question going through the process for ordination. The call to ministry was and is still the focus. For me, preaching has been where my call articulates itself most clearly.
Ministry is of course more than preaching. Preaching week in and week out, however, is the one place a pastor has the ability to touch and connect with the greatest number of people. Scripture as the base for interpretation and outreach offers help and hope in a chaotic and crazy world.
Having been offered associate positions several times as a young pastor, I turned down every one. “When would I preach?” I asked. The senior pastor would hem and haw and it would be abundantly clear that I would preach “not very often.”
I couldn’t imagine NOT preaching. Maybe I am not imaginative enough, but I didn’t see myself having any gifts that would lend themselves to some kind of specialized ministry to offer as an associate. Preaching, however, is in my bones. Like Ezekiel, the word burns within me begging to be released. I can not NOT preach. The need to proclaim the word drives me each week as I prepare sermon for congregation.
Preaching allows me the opportunity to offer this “sacred memory,” this Word given as a nurturing and nourishing feast for the soul and spirit. Preaching the word is an opportunity to take our ancient writings and make them real and relevant for people’s live right now.
So what does preaching have to with cooking? On first glance, probably nothing. Yet the way I enter into the preaching process is very similar to how I engage with cooking.
Why do I cook? The easy answer is that I need to eat. My family needs to eat. I like to eat. I enjoy really good food. I do not view food as just fuel for the body. I see food as nourishing and as a way to nurture myself, my family and whoever might be around the table.
Cooking, like preaching, engages my creativity. Sure I can just throw something together (and that is true for preaching as well,) but being intentional about the ingredients, the process and how the food will look and taste makes eating more enjoyable.
Both preaching and cooking can move from mediocre to amazing with the use of good ingredients, well prepared and beautifully presented. Making sure that the ingredients for both the sermon and the dish are local and seasonal will also impact how both the sermon and the dish are experienced.
Channeling the creativity along with ingredients means I can discover new insights and new ways of engaging with the materials before me. I think that is easily understood in terms of cooking, but preaching challenges me in new ways.
When I reflect on thousands of years of preachers reflecting on scripture, I sometimes find myself stuck. What can I possible offer through my preaching that is different than all the others who have gone before me? I remind myself of the Ecclesiastes passage, “there is nothing new under the sun.” (1: 9)
Yet, while there is nothing new, there is still a need to address what we experience in this time and age. I think it is important that we acknowledge the differences, the human experience is the same. Using good ingredients in cooking often points to local food which is fresher than something shipped in from far away. In preaching, sharing my own insights and vulnerabilities and experiences flavors the sermon.
Like food, the sermon should not be all about me as either a cook or a preacher. Still, the whole of a person lends itself to adding a new twist or understanding to the ingredients. Dishes, like sermons become a gift when the cook or preacher is willing to use the best of what they have to offer.
So as I enter the new year, I intend to continue to find new ways to cook and to create sermons that offering nourishing and nurturing food. “The Word became flesh and made his home among us,” (John 1: 14) in order for us to know God and love God and see God. For each sermon I create and preach, I pray the Word will make him home among us and in us.