Week of November 9, 2014
The “Stew” of Stewardship
“Quit that!” came a voice from the other room.
“Quit what?” I asked, “And how could you know what I was doing from in the dining room?”
“I can hear you taking the lid off the pot and that means you’re either tasting or stirring or some of each, but no matter which it is you’re taking the lid off the pot way too many times. So just stop it and let it simmer.”
“What difference does it make how many times I take the lid off?” I asked as I put the lid back on.
Well if you’re tasting it makes a lot of difference because you’re chowing down on dinner and won’t be hungry when it’s time to eat and, there won’t be enough left for me.” Annie walked into the kitchen carrying the bowl of dough she’d been letting rise. “But even if you’re taking the lid off just to stir it, you’re let a bunch of heat and steam out and when you do, and as often as you’ve been doing it, well we might as well cook it with the lid off.”
“And that would be a bad thing?”
“Depends on how thick you like your stew.” Annie sprinkled flour over the counter and turned out the dough.
“Well, it is stew, not soup. So, I guess I like it thick. Certainly thicker than soup.”
“But your soups are stews, so if you want it thicker than that it’ll have the consistency of mashed potatoes. Hand me that rolling pin in that drawer.”
“So how do you like your stew?” I asked, handing her the rolling pin which she held in a rather ominous fashion, as if ready to drive home her point should I not be in agreement.
“Stews are meant to be thicker than soup, that’s a given. But a good stew isn’t mush. Cook it too long or on too high a heat or with the lid off, and the meat will fight your teeth like rubber, the potatoes will disintegrate and the veggies will have melted into indistinguishable tidbits that all taste the same. Stir it too much and you’ll break up the veggies, break down the meat, and lose a lot of liquid; but if you don’t stir it often enough it’ll burn and stick to the bottom of the pot. And if that happens, you can still salvage it, but you really don’t want to stir it too much or too hard ‘cause you’ll loosen burned bits from the bottom and it’ll ruin the stew.”
“I take it char-broiled stew is not your favorite?”
Ignoring me, she went right on, rolling pin dancing in the air as she talked. “If you don’t cook it long enough it won’t matter how many ingredients you put in it, they’ll each taste exactly like what each one is with a little liquid to wash ‘um down. There’ll be no cross pollination of flavors, so to speak, no complexity. But you could cheat and add a roux to thicken it up.”
“Cheat? In cooking you can cheat?”
“In many ways, my dear one. But cheating here, doesn’t really mean the same thing as cheating on a test. Here, the test is the taste, and what I’m talking about are shortcuts and enhancements to bring out the taste without sacrificing the texture.”
“You’ve been watching way too much of the Food Network. Guy and Alton are wearing off on you.” To my relief, she laid the rolling pin down next to the dough.
“Perhaps, but I think most of my stew knowledge comes from practice. Trial and error. And I’ve erred mightily, though it would seem pretty difficult to mess up a stew.”
I opened the lid and scooped out a spoonful of stew, blew over it three times and slurped it down. “You didn’t mess up on this one.”
“No, she said, taking the rolling pin back in hand, “but if you don’t get the lid back on that pot, you’re going to get messed up mighty quick. If my stew turns to mush, you’ll have mush for brains. Now beat it. Outta here!
A practiced chef is like a faithful steward.
How much to give? How to give? To what? How many hours do I have to give in service? How much energy do I have for a certain service? Do I give until all the life is drained out of me and then I keep giving because we should give till it hurts and only then does it really count as stewardship? When I look at all the ingredients of my life, what of them can I, must I, will I give to the service of God? What “heats” me up, what fills me with passion? Is that a clue as to what I might steward for God?
Here we are stirring the pot of stewardship. So many ingredients from so many of us, all mixed in with the broth of love and now we’ve got to stir the pot, but not too much, so all the ingredients can unite into a stew while each one maintains a flavor all its own. It takes practice.
It starts with saying thanks to God for whatever “ingredients” we have: our time, gifts, talents, abilities, resources, relations, the list goes on. Then we prepare those ingredients through prayer; and now we can practice making the stew through our giving. What of each of the ingredients will we toss in the pot to make the stew? Stir so much time in with a task we relish, then pour on some money, simmer in prayer, and stir it all up, but not too much, and you’ll be serving up a tasty “stew” of stewardship.
And in our church, the same is true. We all add ingredients of our interests, talents, resources, prayer, care and more into the pot, then we each get to take turns stirring and as it simmers a strange thing happens: We who were a bunch of individuals with individualized gifts, find ourselves united in a stew of love – not all mushed together, but each bringing a unique flavor to the whole.
Chef St. Paul put it this way, um sorta: “There is one stew. There is one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all the stew who stirs it, tastes it, and is indeed in it. But each ingredient is given a flavor all its own for the enhancement of the stew. It’s a food of love thing.” (Cooking instructions to the Ephesians 4:4-6, 16).
Practice making stew: Add some of this, and pour in some of that. Give a little more of yourself this next year and come stir the pot. Smell the aroma, then “taste and see that the Lord is good.”
In then next several days you’ll be receiving a letter with a 2015 pledge card. Please prayerfully decide what you’d like to add to the stew in terms of a financial contribution. Stir the pot, smell the aroma, add your ingredients and make it great!