Jason Slibeck, March 1, 2020

This Sunday’s Scripture reading.
 

 

“We need you to cut scallions as a garnish for the chili.”

A few scallions at home are not a big deal – a quick minute dicing on the cutting board after the chili is simmering, the corn bread is baking and the sharp cheddar has been shredded. With the spine of a knife, swipe the crisp verdant circlets into a small bowl.

Last month, cooking at Hope for Our Neighbors in Need was different. This garnish was needed to feed hundreds of hungry people. Emma, my daughter, and I were presented with about 30 pounds of garden fresh but now frozen scallions. We separated the frigid sprouts, peeled the soggy or damaged leaves from the plants, cleared off the roots, sliced each one every ¼ inch on a bias cut, composted the waste, then cleaned and cleared the station to be used for the next step in meal preparation. The scallion garnish required over two hours of diligent work from two dedicated people. Ministering to the hungry that morning required over 35 people donating dozens of hours in service, and this happens every week. The work was engaging, focused, fulfilling, and, yes, even exhausting.

As we go into Lent, the Scripture lessons this week said to me that there are no short cuts to the kingdom of heaven. I noticed for the first time that Adam was not idle in the Garden of Eden. He was busy tilling and keeping the land in the presence of God. In the Gospel, Jesus is tempted with short cuts: prosperity when he was physically starving; certainty when he was confronted with proving God would be true to his word; and freedom when he was asked to simply submit to someone other than God. What about Paul’s free gift of grace in the letter to the Romans and to us? Isn’t justification by grace the very definition of a short cut to salvation after a world history of sin?

Lent is a time when I will remember that grace is not a short cut either. Over the next few weeks, I will remember how Jesus worked through an arduous journey that passed by early temptations of quick prosperity, certainty rather than faith, and freedom through submission; how his generosity and goodwill were quickly forgotten by a fickle public; and how his truest friends betrayed, rejected and abandoned him. All of this, ultimately even a brutal death, accepted willingly to remain true to God’s promise that He loves even me.

How truly amazing that after the long journey of Jesus, I get to experience this grace by garnishing a few bowls of chili – the power of Love, freely given.