Yesterday I was watching Celebrity Masterchef. In one section of the programme one of the chef presenters made a dish. It involved lots of sugar, figs and pastry. There was also a side garnish of cream with orange and rose water, with pieces of praline, and some of the praline crushed to dust to sprinkle over everything.
The contestants were given a pen and a bit of paper and asked to identify the ingredients that went to make up the dish. They tasted all the bits and pieces and wrote down their notes. They were then asked to recreate the dish. There was no list of ingredients or recipe.
They were given all the ingredients that had been used along with some ingredients that hadn’t been used. It was up to them to work out what they needed to do from seeing and tasting the end result.
Some of the celebrities got down to rolling out the pastry and baking the pastry case blind. Some began stewing the figs. The praline didn’t seem to bother any of them – they knew what to do. One man just looked at the plate of ingredients and had no idea what to do with any of the stuff. An hour later they presented their offerings to the presenter to be tasted and commented on.
Only one of the celebrities had come close to doing the pastry tart properly. It was an up-side down tart. The filling went in first, the figs uncooked resting on the boiled sugar stuff and with the pastry placed on top. Once cooked it was turned upside down. Cooked that way the pastry didn’t go soggy. The woman had also added in things that were not in the original recipe. I think it as cardamom pods. She was congratulated on the taste of her pie and the presenter said that he would now start adding cardamom pods to his tarts.
There were perfectly edible tarts all of them. For the most part the pastry was soggy – but the figs were cooked well. The wrong piping bag had been used on the cream or the sugar missed out somewhere – but the end result was not bad. There were variations in the tarts, the cream and praline.
Imagine, if you will, all the accounts of the way Christians did church that are written about in the New Testament, in Paul’s letters. None of those churches are the finished product – but let’s assume that it is like the presenter’s finished tart with the garnishes.
Reading about those churches and the relationships between church members – if you could “taste” the tart, what would be the ingredients that could be identified? For example there might be a healthy sprinkle of generosity. The book of Acts talks about people selling land and giving to proceeds to the apostles to distribute to the poor.
Imagine that the next step is recreate the church in all its activities and relationships. There is no recipe included, just a whole lot of ingredients. There is a huge selection of ingredients. You do the best to recreate what you have read and meditated upon.
Imagine that you present your “church” to the presenter. Sometimes you come close to doing some part of the dish properly. Sometimes you miss an ingredient out – like the sugar in the cream. Sometimes you add something that wasn’t there originally – like the cardamom pod – and it actually enhances the taste. Sometimes you end up with the soggy bottom.
Sometimes that’s what church is all about. It’s about tasting what is in the Bible. It’s about bringing to mind those good church experiences and trying to identify the ingredients that made it good. Or the not so good ones and trying to work out what went wrong. It’s about being prepared to risk the cardamom pods in the mixture to see what happens.
If churches were made like that I think they would be interesting places to be.