Thursday, April 2, 2009
The Preacher’s Corner
Martha would have made a casserole
This morning, for some reason, I woke up remembering how, when I was a teen-ager and had my appendix out, our neighbor in Cleveland, Rebecca Austin, appeared at the back door with a wonderful rib-eye steak, to be cooked specially for me, when I felt well enough to eat it. Why do I remember this wonderful lady and her act of kindness after so many years? It was a painful moment and her thoughtfulness eased the way.
I am always amazed at the way, when trouble comes, what I call “the casserole brigades” go into action. The Prayer Book speaks of “. . .trouble, sorrow, need, sickness, or any other adversity.” The prayer asks that God would comfort and relieve those in such situations. But what I see is that the ladies of our town take matters into their own hands, and they do it with casseroles.
Word travels with lightning speed in this berg. I won’t make jokes about it. I saw it Sunday when word leaked that members of my congregation were buying a new place!
Bad news, however, seems to travel the fastest — and in the cases where the bad news is true — not always are the reports true! — but a good sign that the situation is confirmed — is the cars pulling up bearing casseroles.
A local home in bereavement will at least have plenty to eat. It is sometimes hard to find words in situations of grief. The florists “say it with flowers.” Many people here also say it with food. I guess that is why the expression “comfort food” is such a widely agreed-upon Southern phenomenon.
This is also true, albeit to a lesser degree, when the occasion is happy. New babies are also welcomed with platters of goodies. If the Three Wise Men had been ladies, they would have loaded their camels with casseroles.
We all know the story of Mary and Martha from the Bible. Martha would have baked a casserole.
When I was a young seminarian, I thought that all the church’s work was accomplished at the pulpit. This rather arrogant and egotistical conception puts the minister on a pedestal and thinks that “finding just the right words” is the supremely important thing.
Service in a small Southern town has taught me that while we may have few women preachers, the faith is often powerfully conveyed with culinary expressions. If platters could preach…
There are standards and etiquette to all this. Two Greenville ladies landed on the New York Times best-seller list with their cookbook, “Being Dead is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral.” With wonderful humor, Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays show how seriously people take the ministry of food in small churches.
Jesus, after all, used a supper, to institute the holy ordinance of his dying love. And the first steps to an organizational structure in the early church came with the appointment of seven deacons, whose duty was a food ministry for Jerusalem’s poor.
So, are you surprised that even in this present busy day, “amazing grace” comes knocking at the door with a covered dish?
Attendance at prayer meetings these days is down. But our church has a hymn that says, “each smile a hymn, each kindly deed a prayer.” I favor an activist religion, and I’m convinced that the people of Mississippi pray with their ovens.
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