Church is something like a cake

Posted: Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Perhaps one of the most important things we should note about making a cake is that it has to have all its ingredients. I know the best cooks can make substitutions and variations, but here the analogy still holds good. Because, sometimes, when certain of the ingredients are unavailable in the church, it helps to have enough know-how and ingenuity to make suitable substitutions. (Like choir directors and preachers, perhaps?)

One thing I'd like to make immediately clear. The minister is not the cake. The cake is not made of only one ingredient. It is not possible to have a church without a congregation, people. A church is not the pastor's church. It's not his church, her church, your church, my church, or their church. It is God's church. And since the church, God's church, is the body of all believers, we are all responsible.

It frequently seems that we prefer to do the dramatic thing: be the inventor, be the discoverer. Somebody once pointed out that we give lots of well-deserved credit and admiration to Edison, the inventor of the light bulb. But the people to whom you and I really owe our undying gratitude are the ones who go on making one light bulb after another, day in and day out.

Well, you can see what kind of a cake I'd make. Reading the first ingredients made my mind wander.

What other ingredients do we need in this cake? We've mentioned two, a minister and a congregation. I probably shouldn't liken the congregation and the minister to the nuts in a nut cake, but I got to thinking about how you coat the nuts with the dry ingredients before you add the liquid. I got to wondering what we should coat the nuts with and here's what I came up with. Add generous amounts of each of the following: appreciation - for past history, for present possibilities, for future hopes and plans, and for coworkers, of understanding and knowledge gained through study and experience; of unwavering and unshakable integrity; of faith, hope and love, and of dedication. Season with a sense of humor; moisten the whole with a sense of personal responsibility; stir with enthusiasm; and bake in the oven of experience.

I would like to comment briefly on a couple of the ingredients of our church cake. There is a verse in Hebrews, the first verse of the 11th chapter, often called the Faith chapter, which goes: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen."

Very often we refer to the 13th chapter of Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians. In the last verse Paul says, "There are in the end, three things that last, faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love." Invariably, all that we ever emphasize is love. But Paul says these three abide, faith, hope and love.

All right. Let's get back to the cake. A minister and individual members of a congregation coated with faith and hope and love, and appreciation and integrity, and understanding and knowledge, and dedication, and I mean by that dependability and persistence - willingness to be stuck with the humdrum, routine, repetitive jobs as well as the new and dramatic, seasoned with a sense of humor - for goodness sake, don't forget to put that in! And the whole thing mixed thoroughly with enough of a sense of personal responsibility. This is a Church, and each one of us has a part to play in it.

Frost the cake if you will, but if the cake is missing some ingredients and is flat, there's not much sense in covering it with frosting.

• Bea Shepard is the lay speaker at Douglas Community United Methodist Church.

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