Saturday, February 08, 2014

A little salt, a lot of flavor

The other day I found myself in a conversation with some other women about cooking family meals. It reminded me of a story in a Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor book I read called Traveling with Pomegranates. Ann, a newlywed, describes the complexity of blending two independent lives into a single household and marriage. Cooking for example, and the different ingredients one might use preparing a meal. What kind of seasonings and spices are used that create satisfying meals for people who have grown up with different expectations? How to blend this into a common meal?

My family and I have dinner together almost every night. Usually I am the one who makes the meal, mostly from scratch. Over the last 28 years I tend to fall into cooking trends – we will eat a similar series of meals for a length of time until I grow bored with them and come up with something else. Lately we seem to eat a lot of fajitas and tacos. These are really simple to make and usually I make enough to freeze for a second meal. Easy to make and left overs to boot is a win-win if you ask me.

I make fajitas from scratch using thinly sliced green and red peppers, a jalapeno pepper and onions, sometimes some beans if I have a container of frozen homemade chili, and thinly sliced chicken or steak. I like the fajitas to have a little bite, but not enough that it burns. One night I was surprised at how bland they tasted. I mentioned this to my son, who agreed. It was then that I realized that I had not added any salt to the mixture while I was preparing it. When I added salt to what was on my plate all the flavor of all of the ingredients popped up - suddenly the bland meal was much more flavorful.  I never use very much salt but this experience reminded me of the importance of a little salt in our lives.

Jesus has something to say about salt in our reading this morning from Matthew. Jesus is using salt as a metaphor for what it means to be Christians – as God’s salt our purpose is to bring out the fullness of God’s desire in the world. Jesus tells his disciples that they, and we, have the distinctive capacity to elicit goodness on the earth. We are God’s salt because we strive to follow Jesus and live as God desires. Like salt, which is used to alter or enhance the taste of food our efforts to elicit goodness can have profound consequences for the world around us.

Conversely, not being “salt”, not working for the good as God teaches us, leads to many of the problems we face in the world today. These problems include, but are not limited to, the economic disparity that occurs when we support corporations that hire child and slave labor. For example, corporations who produce clothing, coffee, and chocolate, and who abuse employees with harsh working conditions, long hours, and a meager salary.  Also, many of us have no idea that trafficking of human beings for sex or labor is happening right here in our community.

Saltiness is an expression of faith, love and justice.   Jesus reminds the Disciples, and us, that when we fail to engage in practices that bring forth God’s love and justice we are like salt that has lost its flavor. When we fail to enable all people to have the basic essentials of food, clean water, education and a living wage job, then we are like salt that has lost its taste.[i]

This Friday and Saturday the Vestry gathered for its annual retreat. Vestry retreats are a gift to the members of the Vestry. The gift is an intentional time for formation. It is an opportunity for us to break out of our usual pattern of formal meetings and come to know one another in a new or different way. We participate in worship, share meals, consider the spiritual life of the congregation and our role as leaders, and have some social time together.

In 2011 the Vestry determined that we would work with Jim Gettel,  a parish consultant, to help us organize our Mutual Ministry Review Process (MMR). Mutual Ministry Review is a mandate from our Bishop. The Vestry realized that developing this process would take three or four years to complete, using our Vestry retreat time to determine a "step" and then a year to develop the "step" before moving on to the next one.

The steps are:
2012 - Who are we? What is our Mission?
2013 - Who do we serve?
2014 - How do we as a community reflect on the missions and ministry we are doing together?
2015 - How are we doing, is our MMR process working?

In 2012 the Vestry considered a number of models of congregational life to answer the question, who are we and what is our mission? The Vestry determined that a "Community-Centered" church was the model that best fit us. We then spent 2012 considering if it was an accurate model, and if so how we live into it. We define Community-Centered Church as engaging in the world around us in an inward and outward manner. Many ministries and organizations are able to exist because we give them a place to reside in this building. Many lives are transformed, included ours, because of this building. We also go out into the world – both in Dearborn and the wider global community – with the hope of bringing forth God’s love and justice through feeding children and families, providing wells for water, hurricane relief, building schools.

In 2013 the Vestry further developed the idea of a "Community Centered Church" by engaging in an organic garden model for discerning our Mission Fields. This model asks us to reflect on what "fields" are just a "seed" being planted - which at the time was the Liberian School Project; what fields need watering or tending too, or are flourishing or need to lay fallow. We put our various ministries in a number of these categories.

This weekend we moved to the next step - how do we want to organize our Mutual Ministry Review Process in order to have mutual accountability?  The Vestry met with Commission chairs and ministry leaders for a portion of our time together. We talked about how we want to organize ongoing opportunities for Commissions, Ministries, and Vestry to gather for mutual reflection on the work we are doing and discernment on what needs to be done.

By the end of the retreat we had some basic components outlined for how are we  are we going to come together and reflect on who we are and what we do to grow the mission of Christ Church.

You might say that, much like couples in a marriage, we are figuring out to blend the many ingredients of time and talent offered in this congregation.  The blending of these ingredients will require just the right amount of salt to bring out the full flavor in our recipe for hope. May the saltiness of our lives become the main ingredient in our attitude of gratitude.






[i] Feasting on the Word Year A for the Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany


Ramblings of a Wannabe Theologian said...

thanks, enjoyed that :-)

Nancy B. Fitzgerald (@RevNancyFitz) said...

Interesting process. I hope to hear how it evolves. Are you getting good participation? How did you decide on the congregational model? Which set of descriptions did you use? As always, good writing, good preaching.

Terri C Pilarski said...

The Consultant we are using offered up a number of models but it was readily apparent which one seemed to fit us, given how our building is used and the work we are doing in the world around us. Those participating thus far are the Vestry, nine parishioners elected to serve staggered three year terms, and about 8 other people are all leaders of our Commissions and ministries. Soon it should filter into the work of others. We'll see if it works!

Homily for the Festive Eucharist at the closing of the Episcopal Women's Caucus

The readings that we chose for the service tonight were all picked specifically for this service because they lift up the role of women ...