Week of November 2, 2014
Putting the “Stew” in Stewardship

“No, no!  Don’t chop ‘em up that way.

“Why,” I said,  “what difference could it possibly make what way they’re chopped up, they are all going into the same pot.”

“The pot’s the point,” and she tapped the tip of her knife on the top of the pot. “Because once everything is in the pot it’ll all cook….”

“Precisely my point, so what difference does it whether I cut, dice, julian, or toss them in whole?”

“Look, Mr. But-in-ski, as I was going to say before you so rudely interrupted me, the large pieces will cook slower than the smaller ones and the stew won’t be even…. you’ll be slurping on finely diced onions and crunching on partially cooked chunks of carrot.  It’s all about preparation.”

“Preparation?” I asked, “It’s a stew.  You just throw everything in the pot, stir and season and wa-la!  It’s stew!

“No,” Annie decried, “it’s not.  It’s a pot with a bunch of variously sized chunks of food in it.  That is not a stew.  A stew takes preparation, time, careful attention to the ingredients and how they are prepared.  Do you keep the skin on the potatoes or peel it off.  The carrots should be cut the same size as the potatoes otherwise one will crunch while the other will mush.  The broccoli florets should be about the same size as the cut okra, and the peas, corn, black beans can be added later because they’re smaller.  The onions you were asked to chop, not mince, and by the way, there’s a much better way to chop onions…..”

“Do we have to go through this again?”  I asked, weary of lecture I was about to receive yet again.

“All right, I’ll skip the cooking class for now, but stew is not just food in a pot.  When it is prepared the right way, from choosing the ingredients, to cutting and chopping to the right size, and then adding them at the right time, to browning the meat to seal the flavor, to saute’ing the peppers and garlic to bring out the flavor, to cooking over the proper heat and for the right length of time, to letting it rest a bit before serving – well, all of that is what makes it a stew.”

Clearly on the losing end of this one I handed over my knife.  “OK, I give up.    Show me how to chop an onion.”

Chopping onions and stewardship?  Not so unrelated as you might imagine.  Just as making a good stew requires a good deal of preparation, so does good stewardship.  And the preparation for good stewardship is called prayer.   Prayer is that conversation with God in which we bring all of our thoughts and living into God’s presence.  Nothing is left out.   All the ingredients of our lives are important to this endeavor, just as all the various ingredients are important to the stew.

As the ingredients of the stew are brought into the kitchen, washed, cleaned, chopped or diced, browned and saute’d, so we bring the various ingredients of our lives into prayer.  Through prayerful preparation we are able to properly steward our time, and how the hours and days of our lives might be well spent to the glory of God.  Prayerful preparation enables us to better direct our energies so they’re neither sloshed out over everything with much being wasted, nor given in too skimpy a measure.   Just as good cook endeavors to go with the flavors of the food and not try to cancel them out with large doses of seasoning, prayerful attention to talents, gifts, abilities and desires enables us to work and live from strengths rather than continually try to overcome shortcomings.  Prayer draws our attention to the holiness of the other, and we then find ourselves cooking up encouragement and care for one another.  Prayer allows God a say in how we serve up our money and resources.  Through prayerful preparation we can discern where, how and how much to give, and through prayer we become like God, cheerful givers, knowing that all we bring and give for the stew will be stirred together with gifts from all, then seasoned with the Spirit to be served up with love.

And thus, the Great Chef will take the prayerfully prepared ingredients we bring and turn them into a lip-smacking, tongue tantalizing, rich and hardy stew called Providence, and then serve us up to nourish the body and soul of one and all.

Prayerfully prepare yourself for stewardship this year.  Ask God to show you what the stewardship of your life “ingredients” might look like.  Prayerfully seek ways to steward your time and talents, energy and love, money and resources for the glory of God and service to God’s children and creation.  

The pot’s on the stove waiting for us to put in the prayerfully prepared ingredients.  With one of those ingredients, money,  we make a pledge to contribute to this “stew” of Providence: to make the the missions and ministry of this church hearty, tasty, and nourishing.  You’ll be receiving a letter and pledge card in the mail during the week following Sunday, November 9th.  Again, please be in prayer about your contribution of this ingredient for the life of the church.  Imagine the rich depth of flavor and overflowing pots of love and service, learning and caring, worship and growing, deep with God and wide to one another if we all contribute to the stew.