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Stir It Up

Matthew 11: 2-11

The Rev. Jon Roberts

15 December


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.” 7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 Why then did you go out? To see a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who wear soft raiment are in kings’ houses. 9 Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.’ 11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Stir It Up

St. John the Baptist visited in Prison by Master Astorga (Spanish XVIII, 1512-1530)

Stir up your power and pardon our offenses.[1]

There are a lot of things being stirred up in some of the most surprisingly watched TV shows, found mainly on The Food Network. Seems like some of these top shows are averaging five million viewers an episode.

The top-rated food network shows are:[2]
Iron Chef
Master Chef
Guy’s Grocery Games
Beat Bobby Flay
The Great Food Truck Race
Diner, Drive-ins, and Dives
Ace of Cakes
Cake Wars
And any type of Baking Championship.

As much as we think we watch our favorites because of how delicious the food might be, let’s not kid ourselves. Most of the time we like to watch to see how the drama is stirred up around the greatest goofs, and mishaps around cooking offenses by these competitive chefs. Let’s go to season 2, of Master Chef, where contestant Erryn Cobb was given $500 worth of truffles to make a culinary masterpiece. Instead, he gave the judges a collapsed, burned steak and rubbery vegetables. At the final judgement of the meals, judge Ramsay didn’t even dismiss Erryn by name. Instead, he basically suggested that the worst contestant must know who he is and that he should see himself out. Erryn ultimately explained that he had been having a bad day.

If this type of criticism awaits when we arrive at the gates of heaven, we may all be in a lot of trouble as we are certainly not perfect and most of us would admit to having a bad day most days of our life. It brings to mind by seeing all of this food glory, that man’s best friend is not a dog. Instead it is a perfect meal that satisfies perfectly. It must use choice ingredients.
They need to be prepared just so, in order with nothing left out. That would be a huge offense.
They must be stirred just right.

The most important ingredient you ask? Patience. In the epistle by James, he says, “Be patient therefore, beloved until the [meal is served]”[3] It must go in the oven at the right time and be removed the same. But for the meal to be complete, to be perfect, it is the presentation, the offering which is most important. Without the offering and description of the ingredients, one cannot fully appreciate the meal.

Between 1965 and 2014, Carl Schauk, professor at Concordia University in Chicago, set a lovely offertory piece to the collect in which we enjoy today. “Stir up your power O Lord and come. Protect us by your strength and save us from the threatening dangers of our sins for you reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”[4]

There simple offertory gives texture to the meal being prepared in this refreshing, third Sunday in Advent. Something good is being stirred up by the prophet as he presents the Savior of the world. You can see this in the exchange between John the Baptist, preparing the dish of salvation for inspection by the Master Chef, Jesus Christ. Held captive, over on the side in this prison, John awaits the evaluation. John and his audience await validation from the chef, by asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” It is not that John doubts the prophecy of the Messiah, found in Christ; it is rather that he wants to hear the words return back to him. He is not simply a man who people went out to see in the wilderness as a nervous chef who quivers under the pressure. Jesus reaffirms John by listing the main ingredients to which are used for the offering of the grand dish called “Salvation.” What has been stirred into the bowl and what is being presented, Jesus affirms:
“The blind received their sight,
the lame walk,
the lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised
and the poor have good news brought to them.”[5]

These are the exact words found in the Book of Isaiah where long ago the recipe became known.[6] Jesus is demonstrating his mastery of the creation, leaving nothing out, presenting it at precisely the right moment, giving it the proper description. This is not new to us, as we come to Church, faithfully taking our place before the altar where the meal is clearly observed. The place where we prepare it with the same ingredients from the Collect, the Word of God, the confession, creed and prayers, and finally the Blessed Sacrament. It is the complete and perfect dish that God calls us to dine, but it is not without noticing our offenses. We offer our blindness, our lameness, our illness, deafness, death and poverty. Jesus takes all these ingredients, leaving none of them out, in order to create something truly artistic and incredible. It is not simply food to eat; it is an experience to keep.

Let us join one another by stirring up something with power while asking our Lord to pardon our offenses.

[1] The Book of Common Prayer, Advent III, Year A (Adapted by The Rev. Jon Roberts)
[2] 2019.
[3] James 5:7-10 (Adapted by The Rev. Jon Roberts)
[4] Carl Schalk, “Stir up your power, O Lord” MSM-50-0205. 1971.
[5] Matthew 12:2-11
[6] Isaiah 35:1-10

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