November 19th, 2013

saxon cross

Dipping from the bottom

I stopped for lunch at Steak and Shake yesterday. Had a cup of their fine chili with my meal. I noticed that it looked pretty thin. It tasted fine, but it was mostly liquid. Whoever filled the bowl had not been taught that most important lesson about serving soup: Always dip from the bottom.

When you dip from the bottom, you bring up all the solids. Meat and beans in the case of chili; with others soups and stews it's other goodies. You don't have to worry about getting enough broth. The ladle will always dip plenty of broth along with the solids. And if it doesn't, quite, it's easy to spoon up a little to top off the bowl with.

Why don't people do this? Well, they may not have been taught how. Or they may be trying to make the good stuff last. But skimming off the top is ultimately unsatisfactory. You're cheating people unless you dip from the bottom.

It occurred to me, then and there, that this was a parable for the Church. All too often, we only skim the surface of the gospel in our teaching and practice. Maybe we don't know how to go deeper. The teachers can only take the disciples where they themselves have been, and shallow teaching and practice lingers because the leadership doesn't know any better. But sometimes, I wonder if we're not trying to stretch what we've got to give to people, because we're afraid there's not going to be enough. What if we promise them something profound, and then we can't deliver? Better to tell nice stories, lay on a little guilt for their being so well off, and come up with a busy program to put seats in the seats.

We should trust God more. He's not going to run out of goodness to share. The deeper we go with him, the more we will bring up to satisfy our hungry souls.

People say, If we had communion too often, it wouldn't be special. That's skimming off the top; those folks will never know how special it could be. I don't know if I'm ready for the kind of commitment you're talking about, pastor. Nobody is, but if you don't go for it, you'll never get anywhere. It's fine to talk about tithing, but people have to pay their bills. Yeah, God really can't compete with the lasting value of whatever it was you last put on your credit card. Let's cancel for now; we can always do [VBS/church camp/mission trip/the retreat] next year. Jesus said, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee." Not intending to be overly dramatic, but things never stay the same. This person is ready for the next step in his relationship with God now; if you punt, then he may drift off, never knowing what he could have had. Those kids will be too old for what you're planning if you can't get it organized before then. People grow up, and people grow old. They move on. They die. And what are we doing with them while we've got them here?

This is the thing I'm wrestling with right now. I'm frantically busy, but I suspect I'm not getting much accomplished. I see things I wish I could address, but I don't have the energy or can't clear my schedule for them. And my own spiritual life ain't nothin' to brag about right now. I'm tired all the time. Some of that's advancing age, but a lot of it is, in Bilbo's words, trying to scrape too little butter over too much bread. I need something more just for me; then I might have something more for those I serve.

Lord, help me reach all the way down and dip from the bottom of your goodness to serve the hungry souls in my cure.