February 16, 2020

The Perfect Recipe
Shining Our Light Week 4 – Community
Epiphany 6, Year A
Becky Robbins-Penniman


Ready. Set. BAKE!
Not words you’d think a person like me, who hates cooking, looks forward to.
But Gus and I are hooked on The Great British Baking Show.
Now, I hate sermons based on shows I haven’t seen, but the show has no plot, so bear with me.
Twelve amateur bakers from around the United Kingdom are chosen for a 4-month-long bake-off.
Each week, 1 baker is named the star baker, and 1 loser is voted off the island
until at the end of 4 months, only 3 are left in the final.
Every weekend the contestants gather and bake 3 new things.
They are told ahead of time kind of thing 2 of the bakes will be – cookies or bread, for example.
They get to practice those at home and can even bring their own ingredients.
But one of the sessions each weekend is called the “Technical Challenge.”
All of the bakers are given exactly the same ingredients,
which are hidden under a cheery red gingham cloth.
Then they are told what it is they are to make from those ingredients:
Baguettes. I’ve heard of those.
Victorian Tennis Cake. Nope – new to me. But the recipe’s about 150 years old.
Maids of Honor – Henry the VIII’s favorite dessert.
Never heard of that one, either, and that recipe is some 500 years old.
Everyone is given the same basic recipe, but some key information is lacking,
such as what temperature to set the oven at, and how long to bake it.
So, when folks hear “Ready. Set. Bake!” they have to start figuring things out.
Usually, one person out of the 12 gets it right and there’s at least 1 total disaster.
The secret of those who win is usually that they know more about baking in general,
and can draw on knowledge not contained in the recipe itself.
I got to thinking that this Technical Challenge in baking is a metaphor for life.
We’re all born with more or less the same set of human pieces and parts.
Our family, culture and education give us a basic recipe on how to live,
but lots of details are omitted – and when life hits us with challenges, we just have to figure it out.
I was lucky, though: one of the gifts my family gave me
was additional teaching on how to live, not given by my culture or in public school.
The additional training about life I got from my mom was to be part of the church.
That’s what Joe and Kaitlyn, some of the newest members of the Good Shepherd family,
are doing with Luciana and Penelope, their adorable daughters.
This early training in church helped me navigate a lot of challenges growing up.
As grateful as I am for that early church instruction,
what I had learned by the time I was confirmed at 15 was limited;
as an adult, the challenges got more difficult. Really hard.
I’ve needed more knowledge in my 30s and 40s as sorrow and setbacks occurred.
For 10 years, I made many failed attempts to figure things out on my own.
Finally, through God’s grace I found the church had resources galore
that I hadn’t known about as a kid.

Now, I’m not saying that the technical challenges of life are as simple as baking a cake,
but I will say that the resources beyond the basic recipe that the church gave me
have been invaluable for figuring out how to live my one wild and precious life.
First, the church gave me the Bible, which provides profound insights and teaching
garnered from some 5,000+ years of humanity’s experience with God.
The reading from Ps. 40 reminds us to keep God’s instruction deep within us, for when we need it,
and to tell others how God has helped us.
Paul, in Romans, gives us very clear and entirely counter-cultural instruction
as to how to treat each other – even our enemies –
with a good dose of advice on humbleness sprinkled on top.
Jesus, suffering and dying, is concerned for the welfare of his vulnerable mother.
A friend promises to care for her and give her a home.
These are just some of the ways that people through the millennia
have taught and learned from each other about a life pleasing to God.
The first gift the church gave me was the Bible.
The second gift the church gave me is fellowship with the people of God in both parish families
and in the wider faith community. This companionship with other Christians
encourages and strengthens me beyond all deserving.
The third gift is the worship of the church in our very own Book of Common Prayer,
especially our Baptismal Covenant, which has provided me with true wisdom for living.
Today, Kurt and Penelope will formally enter the ranks of those who are committed
to using the church’s powerful teachings about compassion, discipline and purpose –
wisdom so profound that if all humanity followed it, the world would change overnight.
Let’s look at the Baptismal covenant, the promises we make at baptism:
Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and the prayers?
This means we promise to live life in a faith community,
learning from each other, abiding in Christ together,
and praying for each other – we’re never in this alone!
We pray also for this broken but oh, so beautiful world God gives us.
Will you persevere in resisting evil and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
Not IF ever we sin, but WHENEVER. It’s a given that we’ll mess up.
But God gives us an unlimited supply of second chances. Trust that truth.
Not one of you has committed a sin greater than the power of God to forgive.
You’re just not that big.
Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
We promise to pattern our lives after Jesus – what comes out of our mouths,
how we drive, how we treat the other people – including the ones in our homes –
and even how we think about each other.
If Jesus wouldn’t say it, we shouldn’t, either. If he would do it, we should, too.
To make it even clearer, the next promise is this:
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
Every human being is a child of God: the beautiful ones, the annoying ones,
the despicable ones; they are all also our neighbors.
All are made in God’s image. We don’t get to pick and choose.
What if we all really believed that?
It all gets nailed together in the last covenant:
Will you strive for justice – a just world is when everything is the way
as God created it to be without human sin devastating it –
justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of all the people you like.
Is that what it says? No: respect the dignity of every human being?

If we ALL did this, if we truly welcomed and loved all people,
no exceptions, how many hungry, desperate, oppressed people would there be?
This one has changed my life the most, but I mess it up the most, too. It’s really hard.
With these three things: the Bible, my church family, and wisdom on how to worship and live,
I have, as the psalmist said, God’s instruction deep within me,
and I am confident that I have all the resources I need to face the challenges of each day.
But I’m not the only one! As part of our stewardship campaign,
Shining Our Light in Our Lives and Our Community, I invite Peter Brotherhood
to share his experiences in the fellowship of our parish family,
and how it has shined light into his life.
[Peter, a “snowbird,” spoke of the welcome he and his wife receive when they come here to their southern spiritual home, the many activities they enjoy at Good Shepherd, and the impressive array of outreach ministries the parish is involved in.]
Today, during the offering, we are asking for your pledge of financial support
for this parish family for the coming year.
We will bless the pledges you put in the plate today,
the ones we received in the mail, and the ones made online.
If you need a pledge form, please raise your hand and our ushers will get you one!
Do you have the dollar that Canon Gray gave you back in January?
Remember to give that as well!
This is a strong, vigorous community of people who seek to follow Christ,
to build a House of Prayer where all are welcome, no exceptions,
where we are all invited to the Lord’s table,
where a place has been set for you . . . . and you . . . . and you. . . . and me,
and the people God is sending to us but who aren’t here yet.
If our challenge is for all these lives to make a beautiful difference to the world,
well, we have the perfect recipe, don’t we?


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