Seriously, what do we have to lose?
A few days ago, I witnessed just this spirit of abandon in a small group of people who perhaps would not normally behave in this way.
We were on retreat together — digging deep into scriptures which deal with ‘bread’ and wondering together about God’s abundant providing. To give our time apart both texture and taste, we actually baked bread together.
I had come upon a recipe which offered options in terms of flour and liquid and sweetener and oil and I was prepared with an array of ingredients to choose from. Now it is worth noting that this was not a group which was particularly experienced in bread baking, so in many ways it was all new to them. And maybe this is why they took such liberty in experimenting. Oh, it is so, that one group simply combined bread flour and all-purpose flour. Another did a mix of gluten-free and regular flour. The last group mixed in white whole wheat flour, but they went all in when they stirred in apple cider and apple sauce for their liquid and molasses for their sweetener.
It was fascinating to monitor the bread rising times on each and then to watch as each loaf emerged from the oven different from all rest. And while the one with the heavier ingredients did not rise as far as the rest and while there was some good-natured ribbing on which ingredient combination had produced the more tasty loaf, as we stood around the kitchen and sliced off pieces of warm bread, we discovered that every one was delicious in its own way.
And through it all, this is what I saw. No one held back. Indeed, every person was ‘all in,’ taking their turn at something they had, for the most part, never done before — measuring and mixing and kneading. And while the results may have been varied, it simply didn’t matter. Because everyone left knowing they were part of something larger than themselves and with new-found skills to try at home. In those hours, they all lived as though they had ‘nothing to lose’ and everything to gain.
It’s a little harder to do in the rest of life though, isn’t it? Even in the ‘rest of life’ as laid out in the parable Jesus tells now.
- So how is it, do you suppose, that we foster an understanding of the world which a small group of women demonstrated on a ‘bread retreat’ a few days ago?
- How is it that we learn to risk and grow with what the ‘master,’ with what God, has entrusted to us each one?
I have no certain answers, but I am looking for clues in that retreat I led this past week.
- For maybe we do so by recognizing that the ‘kitchen counter’ holds more than enough ‘ingredients’ for all, and for us in particular.
- Or perhaps we do so by realizing that the ‘kitchen’ itself is also not ours — not the oven, not the mixing spoon, not the baking pans, and so maybe then we can be a little freer in experimenting with them. Oh, maybe this means that we recognize the truth that our whole worlds do not really belong to us at all and that God has given us the freedom, the wisdom, the creativity — all that we need — to do new and sometimes risky things with these amazing gifts.
- And maybe we are called to do so in community. For at least in the gathering I led, people who had never worked together before were making decisions and measuring and mixing and kneading side by side. No, this is not in the parable now, but it seems to me that there is some wisdom here for us still. Under the right circumstances, we can be both support and encouragement to one another to try something new in a different way. To risk and grow with all that God has given us.
- Finally there was this. There was an experienced bread baker in their midst who could test for temperature and texture as they worked. Where do we look for wisdom as we ‘use God’s gifts as though we have nothing to lose? In scripture? At prayer? With human mentors and guides?
So perhaps it is so that for you and me that we do best by first learning to ‘grow’ the gifts of God in us in places apart from our usual daily lives and then we seek to bring these ways of being back into our every-day lives. Maybe we try on what it means to do this on a retreat. Or at worship. Or in some small corner of our lives, all the while doing all we can to translate this way of being back into our lives, seeking to do so more and more every other day as well.
Indeed, the message of our parable today seems to be this: God has given us all these wondrous gifts to use and not to hide away for safe keeping. We are meant to stretch and experiment and grow with them. Oh, isn’t it so that we have so much more to lose by playing it safe and doing nothing with them, than by living as though we have nothing to lose? What do you think?
- How does the wisdom of this parable translate into our every-day lives?
- Indeed, how do we learn to live as though we have nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking risks with God’s amazing gifts?
- In my reflection above I have offered the example of a ‘bread retreat’ where participants somehow experienced freedom to bake bread as though they had ‘nothing to lose.’ What examples of this would you offer from your own experience? Where have you seen the wisdom of this parable lived out?