Sunday, February 14, 2010
Luke 9: 28-36
Since I have become such a homebody, and because I am trying to eat better, I decided to make bread this week. I used a recipe that calls for a three day process. The recipe even said that “you would hardly notice that you were making bread, because you do so little each day!”
So, the first day, I gather up the ingredients-some yeast, some flour, and water. The expiration date on the yeast says April 2010, so I think I am ok. I mix warm water, yeast, and a little bit of flour, and as per the directions, put it somewhere cool. The recipe said that a cool rise helps get a better textured bread, so it goes down into the storeroom. I go down to check it several times, but not having done this recipe before, I have no idea what to look for.
The next day, I bring the bowl up to the kitchen, and add some whole wheat flour and some regular bread flour, more water, and some salt. I mix it all up and put it back into the storeroom.
The third day is supposed to be baking day, but when I go to get the dough, it has hardly risen at all. I’m pretty bummed, but I get distracted with having to take care of other things for Donna or Joe or something, and leave the bowl on the counter overnight. I’ll just toss the dough when I get back to it, I think. But there it sits.
And the next day, which is now the fourth day of a three day recipe, what do you think happened? The dough did rise after all! So I went ahead and finished the adding of the rest of the flour and the kneading, forming it into two loaves and letting them rise for 3 hours (the recipe calls for a half to one hour). And I put both of the loaves into the oven to bake—15 minutes at 500, 35 minutes at 350. Putting both loaves in puts one too close to the top heating element, though, and the top burns. I pull that one out, and finish the other one, then put the burnt top one back in.
The first loaf comes out, and it is a very nice loaf—pretty yummy, in fact! Dense, almost a meal in itself. The second one, the burnt top one, when it cools, I think is too hard to cut into.
But I have made bread! I would have loved to take the second loaf, lacquer it or something, and keep it on the wall as a reminder of the value of a little bit of work each day getting the job done, as a lesson about not throwing something away too quickly, a lesson in patience.
But it is after all, just a loaf of bread. It is not a sculpture that took months and years of work and is meant to stay in a city park. It is made as food, is meant to be food, and will spoil, even though it has such a hard shell.
But making this loaf of bread as a symbol of my experience is very tempting. I understand Peter a little better now when he wants to build three little altar-sheds for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah up on the mountain. He is the first, along with John and James, those old Boanerges boys, to see what Jesus truly is, who he truly belongs with. And he wants an altar built, something that will have people come to that spot and know what happened, maybe even make it a pilgrimage spot. It’s a normal human impulse, to memorialize significant events in someone’s life. Women keep roses from long ago dances in their Bibles, pressed between the pages for 60 years. The baseball that Barry Bonds hit into the stands which gave him the home run record became the focus of bizarre court case, all because the ball itself was important.
We all have, somewhere, mementoes of the things that are important to us. And that’s Ok. But Peter James and John witnessing Jesus dazzling white, and up in the air talking with the two greatest heroes of the faith those four men share is an even that is really like bread. Neither are supposed to be lacquered and kept like a museum piece. Bread is the staff of life—in it is everything that keeps us alive. It’s not meant to be kept. Jesus as a man who is of the same importance as Moses and Elijah is a fact that is meant to be told, and Jesus becomes more important to us, because he is not just a teacher or a miracle worker. It’s not meant to be marked like a roadside historical plaque, or even like that grotto on Pierce Street across from Kings’ College. It’s meant to be talked about the story shared, and the importance of the event is not where it happened, it is that it did happen. Just like learning how to make bread.
We don’t know where the moment of the Transfiguration was, on which mountain. We don’t know where Moses is buried. But we remember both people anyway, because of the importance of their stories. What they said and did and what happened to them are central to our faith. Something had to have happened for there to be a story about it, but what separates this from a legend, what separates it from stories we tell and retell, like Paul Bunyan or Pecos Bill or Dwight Clark’s catch in the end zone from Joe Montana, is that we expect to be changed by the telling.
It doesn’t matter where it happened, just like it doesn’t matter which loaf was the first one. It’s still food, and it is only as useful as it is edible. It’s ability to be used is what makes it important. We say to each other What Would Jesus Do, because we point to his life and his example as our goal in life. How can we be like Christ? How can we imitate Christ? We do it best when we imitate the story and tell the story.
We give it away.
The next sermon will be posted on or after Feb. 28.