Raw ingredients, transformed and exalted

I didn’t grow up with TV. My parents weren’t into it, the reception in rural Montana was terrible, and there were better things to do. Of course, I binge-watched at my grandparents and got hooked on occasional shows in college, but TV was easy for me to give up once the kids came along.

Until we started watching cooking shows together.

Chopped works for me. Four mystery basket ingredients. A pantry and fridge and the chefs’ creativity against the clock. The kids moved on, but Chopped is still a balm to my tired mind—an easy companion when I am cooking or cleaning or curled up under a blanket.

“Transform the ingredients,” the judges exhort. “Repurpose them to create something new.” The challenge: wasabi candy canes, pork jowl, rutabaga, and leftover mac and cheese. Take these disparate items and turn them into something cohesive and amazing.

While I don’t usually connect TV to spirituality, I’ve been thinking lately about what we bring to Jesus, what ingredients are in my “mystery basket”. In yesterday’s gospel passage, the widow threw in two small coins, all that she had to live on. Jesus said she gave more than all the rest, who just put in their spare change.

What does it mean to throw in all we have? And what does Jesus do with what we bring him? Not just our skills and life experiences, but also our quirks. To others, our offerings may seem small, insignificant, or shameful. Not to Jesus, who transforms our basket-case into something more. In the parlance of the Chopped judges, Jesus elevates our ingredients, the final dish much more than the sum of the parts.

6080193848_37583b974e_zWhat happens during that time on the clock, from when we offer ourselves to Jesus to when he presents us transformed before the judge? The ingredients are pureed, mixed with foreign items, exposed to high temperatures—repurposed almost beyond recognition, yet true to their essence. In this metaphor, I shudder a bit. Jesus doesn’t just warm up what we offer and put it on the plate. There are decisions and work—often a change in plan or direction when something burns or doesn’t turn out as originally conceived—so that in the final presentation, nothing looks like it did in the beginning.

But in the end, no matter how messy the process, Jesus has promised to present us in a way that will be exalted. Colossians 1:21 says that he will present us before God as a people who are holy, faultless, and without blame. We will certainly need some transforming to get there! But it also reminds us that this is not just an individual process of elevation; this is a group process, that we might be presented as a people. In fact, as I read in Romans 12 about being transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can figure out what God’s will is, Paul segues into advice about relationships, and the different gifts we have in the body. We are meant to be in community, made into a people.

As I prepare for Advent, I think of bringing all that I have, like the widow. And I trust Jesus to transform these ingredients, to create something new. I also believe this is true for New Covenant Fellowship. That Jesus is taking what each of us has to offer, the gifts that he has spread throughout the body, and elevating them to present to God the Father, so that together we will be pleasing, and utterly transformed.

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