When I was a child, my mom would watch Graham Kerr, a British chef who created fancy dishes on his show. I remember my mom would sit down with pen and paper in hand to write down all the steps of each recipe so she could recreate it at home.
She was often unable to do so. The list of ingredients or the directions to follow were presented too quickly for her to write down. I believe this was intentional. That way, viewers would have to purchase one of Graham’s cookbooks. My mom had her own set of favorite recipes, that she made regularly. She made dinner rolls from scratch nearly every Sunday and most major holidays. Her sweet potato pie and dressing were seasonal highlights.
She didn’t follow a recipe to prepare her signature dishes. She had made each dish so many times that she knew the steps by heart. Which made it difficult for her daughters to recreate any of them. I remember some ingredients for her dinner rolls. The first ingredient was two cups of warm milk. Because my mom made anywhere from 4 to 6 dozen rolls at a time, she would use yeast cakes, rather than the powdered variety. A couple eggs, some sugar and a lot of flour later, the dough would be done and set aside to rise. Then she would break off pieces of dough, shaping them into rolls as she did so, and placing them in the baking pan. It’s that roll making technique I have never come close to accomplishing.
On the other hand, I have been able to reproduce my mom’s sweet potato pie recipe. Because the right combination for those pies was the taste of sweet potatoes, vanilla, nutmeg, and sugar, it was easier to recreate. I don’t think about whether I need a ¼ cup or a ½ cup of something. I trust my tastebuds to let me know if more sugar or nutmeg, or even a pinch of cinnamon is needed. And I have added my own style to my pies.
Whenever I prepare a sermon, I think it’s a lot like those recipes. As I hear others preach, I can recognize the elements they incorporate to craft their message. I hear metaphors and illustrations that I often wish I had thought of. Someone will share an interpretation of Scripture that increases my understanding of our Lord, and at the same time, transforms the study and reflection I will do for my next sermon based on that passage.
Each of us adds our own flavor and seasoning to the messages we create, and the ways we share them. We draw on our life experiences as children of the Living God to inspire others on the journey. We reflect on what’s happening in our world to deepen our faith and the faith of those we serve. We incorporate what we have learned and are learning into the sermon for this week or this season. We continue to tweak and modify what we have prepared, sometimes even as we share it with those in worship. Our messages are living recipes of how our Lord speaks to us and through us. We all have a story to tell, as laity and clergy. May God’s light continue to shine in us and through us whenever and wherever we preach. And Amen.