I watch a fair bit of Netflix when I’m at home, and one of my favorite shows to watch is the Great British Bake Off. Any other fans of the show here? It’s a great show – it’s shot in Britain, as you might have guessed. Twelve amateur bakers from around the country gather together and, over several weeks of baking challenges, the show’s judges narrow down their numbers until they’re left with one winner. It’s amazing to see the stuff they come up with – fantastic creations made with intricate combinations of flour, eggs, sugar, water, yeast, and all kinds of other baking ingredients. And what I find even more amazing about the show is how the judges evaluate all the different bakes. They’ll just look at something someone’s made, or maybe slice it open, and just by looking at it, they’ll say, “Oh, that needed 5 more minutes in the oven,” or “You should have added one more egg,” or “You should have added the sugar at such-and-such stage.” It’s amazing to watch. They’re like baking wizards. And it really underscores how every single component of that recipe is needed – it’s needed in the proper amount and at the proper time. When you do it wrong, it’s a mess, but when you get it right, these ordinary ingredients become something much greater than just the sum of their parts.
I joined the Peace Corps when I was fresh out of college. I wanted to travel and see a different part of the world. And I also genuinely wanted to help others, to give some of the abundance of what I have received to other people.
What I didn’t expect about this experience was how much I would receive in return. Over the four years that I spent in the Dominican Republic, I got to meet lots of amazing people. And I found that, more often than not, the person receiving the generosity and help of others was me! I almost had to laugh one time when my community received a bunch of canned food from a ministry group that had come down to the island. I’m sure I probably thought, “Oh how nice that other people are also sending help to this poor community.” Imagine my surprise when members of the community showed up on my doorstep to give me food. They wanted to care for me because I lived alone and didn’t have any family in the community.
This is a truly joyous festival day in our calendar. The work of this year’s harvest is over and now we can celebrate the bountiful, abundant gifts that God and the good earth have given us. Where I grew up in rural Nebraska, my little hometown was surrounded by a patchwork of of cornfields and soybeans and alfalfa, and around this time of year, the air was always filled with the warm, golden scent of freshly harvested crops. At my family’s house, this was always salsa-making season. Our garden produced fruits and vegetables by the bucket load, and our house would be filled with the aroma of roasting tomatoes, and freshly chopped onions and garlic, and spicy jalapeños. Continue reading “Sermon: Blessings of Thanksgiving”