I have been lucky enough to live for the last mumble-mumble years in a house where the recipes and the food are always good, and the cakes and cookies are in a category all their own! But did you know that Peter includes a recipe in one of his Biblical letters? It goes like this:
II Peter 1: 5-8 (TEV)
5 For this very reason do your best to add goodness to your faith; to your goodness add knowledge;
6 to your knowledge add self-control; to your self-control add endurance; to your endurance add godliness;
7 to your godliness add brotherly affection; and to your brotherly affection add love.
8 These are the qualities you need, and if you have them in abundance, they will make you active and effective in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And yet it takes more than us individually following this recipe – we work best as a church when we use all of the church and the members to get the job done. So just for something different, let’s make a church cake! We’ll start out with a...
Mixing bowl: As with any cake, we have to start with a mixing bowl. It's clean, shiny, fairly smooth (OK, there's an imperfection or two here and there), and, hey, if you get close enough, you can see yourself! So here's where we'll start concocting our church cake.
Now for most cakes, and most churches, too, you need several mixing bowls to handle the different ingredients. So, grab another bowl while you’re at it. Use the first bowl for those church member ingredients that like things cut and dried. They like to review the SS lesson cookbook starting with Sunday's brunch, and end up discussing Friday night supper just about 10:40 am Sabbath morning.
The smaller bowl we'll use for those touchy-feely ingredients; the ones that like to go with the flow and mix it up on their own. You'll often find these ingredients off in a small bowl somewhere during Sabbath morning cookbook study, as it’s easier to exchange ideas in a small group. You mix better that way, you know.
Mixing spoon: A mixing bowl has to have someone to start things rolling, so to speak. So here would be our adult cookbook teacher. They come in all shapes and sizes, some have an occasional splinter, but hey, what would we do without them? Nowadays most church bowls have at least two, but we'll start with one each. If one of them has to go on vacation, we'll just get a volunteer from the drawer.
Cake mix: In every cake, there's one main ingredient. In a scratch cake, it's usually flour. In a box cake, it's the cake mix. By themselves, either one of these is just, well, normal and very uniform in appearance. But it’s the stuff that cakes are made of! Without it, the chocolate chips and the eggs would make a pretty sorry sight in the baking pan, no matter how excited they were about making a cake together.
And that's the way it is with our church, too. It may seem sometimes like the same people are always up front; the same people always do special music; the same people always teach the lesson. But never forget that it is the cake mix people that come week after week after week ; it’s the cake mix people that provide much of the finances of the church; it's the cake mix people that keep the parking lot plowed, the lawn mowed and the bathrooms clean. They are the body of the church; without them, the raisins and the frosting wouldn't have anybody to preach to. Or to sing to for special music!
Instant pudding: I'm sure we all have had the experience of being served a big piece of DRY cake. Of course, you didn't expect it to be dry, and ate the first bite with relish. Remember how that first bite wouldn't go down, no matter how hard you tried? Finally, you managed to swallow it, only to realize you had a whole piece left to finish and only half a glass of water left by your plate. Kinda makes the old taste buds gasp in sympathy, doesn't it? How much easier it would have been if the cake had been so moist, you could cut it with a spoon.
Have you ever thought that our church sometimes seems like that to a new believer? Expecting a warm, friendly dose of Christian fellowship, they end up with a big plate of dry doctrine.
Good rules to live by, yes, but missing that dose of loving acceptance and the willingness of us “old” believers to help ease their road to finding a friend in Jesus. That's why each successful church needs “pudding people”; warm friendly folk that make it their role in the church to befriend visitors, newly baptized members and even old members that are dealing with a crisis in their life.
Eggs: Now lest we forget our other mixing bowl, I'd like to talk about one of those ingredients for a minute. It's a rare cake that doesn't include an egg or two, for the humble egg has one prime responsibility. It holds the cake together. Sure, it has its faults like any of us, but without the eggs, this church cake just wouldn't come together. But with them, it’s unlikely to fall apart any time soon.
So who are the eggs in our church? Quite simple, really. Have you said to yourself this morning, “Hmm, I wonder where so-and-so is today? It just seems like something's missing when I don't see them at church.” If you have, that person is probably an egg. The eggperson usually holds a church office, often more than one. They're willing to help at the last minute so things won't suddenly fall apart. They have a warm smile and when they shake your hand or give you a hug, you walk away feeling warm all over. Every church needs them, every good church has them. Eggs of America, we love you!
Chocolate chips: The next ingredient is small in size, but large in effect. Although normally found in cookies, this church cake needs lots and lots of chocolate chips inside. Now they're certainly not part of the wet crowd, exchanging lots of feelings and stuff. But they really aren't part of the dry crowd, either, for they ask too many pointed questions.
So just what do the chocolate chips do for our cake? First, they provide a sharp bite of flavor, at least compared to the standard cake all around them. And it's not always a sweet bite, either. They break up the monotony and keep the entire church cake from looking, tasting, and acting the same. And lastly, since they are scattered everywhere, they come in contact with every other church ingredient at some time or another.
And who are these chipperoos in real life? Well, I suspect you may have guessed already. But if not, picture yourself walking through the children’s divisions and you’ll know without a doubt!
Milk: Another member of our go-with-the-flow group is the humble glass of milk. Or a cup and three-quarters in this case!
Dumped in with the eggs in Bowl #2, this mixing-bowl class doesn't look like much, just a couple of yellow islands in a white sea. And when we mix it up a bit, it looks even less appetizing. So what purpose does this chicken and cow juice serve? In the bowl by itself, not much.
But do remember that even though we may attend different cookbook classes on Sabbath morning, we are still making a church cake here. And that means that we do in the end have to mix it up together if we really want to be one church family. And that's just what it is time to do. So let's grab Ms. Ooey-gooey bowl here and mix it in with Mr. Dry-and-dusty bowl over THERE.
And suddenly, our milk has a purpose! To loosen up the dry members, to help the chips find their niche in the church, and to help activate and support the pudding patrol in their chosen role. Of course, they also help the egg people spread love and good cheer throughout the cake.
They teach cookbook classes for our little chocolate chips. They assist at Communion. They provide flowers, food, and comfort to those in need. They teach adult cookbook classes; they serve as church officers, and often fill in as good eggs. So tell me, where would we be without the women of our church? What would we do without the true kindness that they provide to our church family? Show them your appreciation, for we would have no church without them.
Cooking spray: Now that we have combined our ingredients into one big messy conglomeration, the time has come to mold them into the unique churchcake that each church family becomes. But before we do that, let's coat our baking pan with some Pam, here; without this marvelous stuff, the final results might be disastrous.
If our church doesn't have the love and grace of Jesus, the trials and troubles of working together (being the humans that we are), could become too much for us. Some of us might choose to remain attached to the sides of the cake pan, forming our own little independent islands of Christianity. Others might get burnt out from exposure to the heat and persecution of the outside world and give up on the church. But if we allow God to shield us from the worst of the world's trials, we will come out shining like gold. (or at least baked to perfection!)
Bundt pan: And last of all, we need something to bake our cake in; something to give it shape, direction, and purpose; something to actually make it look and act like a cake. Now it may have a funny shape, it might look like a big piece of the cake is missing when we're done, but without the pan, there will be no cake.
But rest assured that God has a plan for this church cake; a plan that only He as the Master Baker knows. There is a place for each one of us in that cake. It may be at the top; it may be in the middle; it may be right on the edge where the fires of temptation will be hottest. But we need not worry, for God knows what He's doing. His oven timer always works. He never comes dashing into the mansion, yelling, "Oh, I forgot the cake in the oven!” God knows that this cake will turn out - and that someday soon, it will be served up as a masterpiece at that big potluck in the sky.
So remember that without you, this church cake wouldn’t be the same. We are all needed, we are all important; we are all PART of what the Chapel Oaks church in particular, and God’s church in general, is all about.
As Paul says in Ephesians 4, “He gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God.”
Cake mix, chocolate chips, or gooey eggs; no matter what part we may play, we all are part of God’s big cake.
P.S. Actual recipe available on request! - Dave Fairchild