My mom saves up recipes so that when I am home visiting, we can go through and cook all the new dishes together. It’s not so much that I’m a great cook but again, I like to do it and I am good at being flexible with the ingredients.
I hate baking. I love to eat baked goods but I hate to actually bake. It’s too precise. Requires too much accuracy. Too much following of the rules.
When I was young I tried to bake some kind of German chocolate pie. I tried to follow the rules, obey the recipe, do it right. What emerged from the oven was horror the likes of which this universe had never even comprehended.
Needless to say, no one ate it. And while I have never come as close to wiping out existence as I did with that pie, I have tried to bake since then and never with good results. I make bad cakes and pies.
And there isn’t much worse than thinking you are going to get to enjoy a nice slice of cake and having it be so bad that you want to physically harm the cook.
It takes a certain amount of concentrated effort and careful planning to be a baker it seems.
There were times in Israel’s history were they were pretty good bakers. They knew how to take their time, measure out their ingredients, and set the oven at just the right temperature. And their pies came out pretty darn tasty.
They knew where they security lay, they knew to whom to pray, they understood who gave them strength.
And as the people of God they were blessed.
They were a people focused on their purpose and not their privilege.
But that didn’t last.
And so 2800 years ago, God sent Hosea, an Israelite, the son of Beeri, to his people to explain to them that they had lost their way.
He speaks to Ephraim, the largest tribe of the north. He has some words to set to them right if they will listen.
Hosea calls them a “cake not turned”. The idea is that a cake baked like that would be raw on one side and burnt on the other. Neither of those conditions is good to eat and neither does anyone any good. That sort of cake is more than just inedible; it is a waste of time and resources. It shows not that the ingredients were spoiled or rotten but that the baker had neglected her job and forgotten about her purpose. The cake goes unturned.
If you don’t want to be a baker, fine, don’t be one.
If you want to be a baker, then do it right and do it well.
The book of Revelation talks to us about a church that faces the same dilemma. God calls out the church in Laodicea as being neither hot nor cold in their works.
Mostly I have heard people say that passage means that God wants people to either be good (hot) or bad (cold). But that doesn’t make any sense to me. I don’t think God is telling people to be bad.
The city of Laodicea sat between two water sources. One was a hot spring that could be used to cook food or keep you warm. The other was cold, cool and refreshing.
The problem was that by the time someone hauled water from either source back to town, it was tepid, lukewarm. Not much fun to drink or do anything with really. The issue wasn’t that they needed to decide whether or not to be good or bad, the issue was that they needed to decide whether or not they were going to be close enough to their source of comfort, strength and power for it to be of any use.
This was where the Israelites found themselves so many years before. Clinging to ideas and institutions that separated them God and being too uncomfortably content to do anything about it.
As we will see repeated throughout history, the people of God had become just fine with parceling out purpose to those around them.
They sold out their purpose to the foreign nations which removed their strength and security without them even being aware of it.
Who do we mix ourselves with? Who do we entrust with our purpose, the purpose God has specifically commanded his people to be a part of?
This is in no way a call to remove ourselves from the world but to always remember that while we are in it, we are not of it.
Who have sold our birthright to for a mere bowl of soup?
We get content when we think that we have it all going our way. When we think that everyone around us is bound by our way of thinking, by our purpose. Pride has interesting ways of sneaking up on us. It invaded Israel long before any foreign government stormed their borders and scattered them to the wind.
The people had become so spiritually lazy that even when they felt the need to cry out in help for something, they cried out to every other man-made deity except for the one true God of Israel.
Idols, statues, horses, chariots… now all their symbols of power and peace.
Stock markets, military might, political parties… now all our symbols of power and peace.
And if we are, as a Church, in some ways like Israel of 2800 years ago, then what a great opportunity for the Church to reclaim its mission. To be once again set apart for its purpose and not privilege.