I really like the reality cooking show/contest, Chopped. In this television program, four chefs from around the country compete to make the most delicious and creative dishes as determined by a panel of celebrity chefs. The quirk to the show is that the contestants must use all four food items included in the “mystery basket.” Sometimes the items are familiar and reasonable like smoked pork chops or radishes. Sometimes the items are unfamiliar or less commonly used like quail eggs or celeriac. Sometimes the items are just plain cruel like jellybeans in the appetizer round or used coffee grounds in the entrée round.
I know, I know, it is very silly, but chances are if you have seen this show you know how intriguing it can all be. I like to imagine being a contestant myself. Maybe one day they will have a special clergy competition… I can dream, right? Anyway, I love to imagine that I am a part of the competition. I get a little bit smug when I see some of the ingredients. Pork ribs, dandelion greens, vegemite, and gummy worms? Hah! That’s mere child’s play. I could make delicious, but certainly unconventional pork fried rice. It is probably just as fun when I get completely stumped. Marrow bones, cheese curls, spam, and caviar? Nope, now I am stumped. With baskets like that I am glued to the TV wondering, “What the heck are they going to do with that?” Some of the chefs fall flat with the especially odd baskets, but others seem to make something delicious out of the seemingly not delicious combination of items they were stuck with.
The church is a lot like Chopped. God has given us many gifts, passions, languages, and resources to proclaim God’s unconditional love to the world. Sometimes we might have just the right combination for ministry and it is very obvious. Good organizer, beautiful singing voice, great cook, and welcoming personality? Got it. We could put together an open mic night with dinner and the money we make could go to Trenton Area Soup Kitchen. But there are other times when we might not be sure how our gifts fit in. We all have those skills and gifts that are on par with receiving cheese curls in your mystery basket. But our chef is the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit can do some pretty amazing things… even with cheese curls.
We saw the incredible ability of the Holy Spirit to bring together all kinds of unharmonious ingredients into a beautifully composed dish. At the church’s first Pentecost we saw people gathered together who spoke many languages who were “Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs…” (Acts 2:9-11). Each of these very different peoples were able to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ in their own language. Each “ingredient” was highlighted, but together they composed a beautiful dish.
This is no less true today. God the Holy Spirit is still gathering the many different people of the world with their many different gifts and serving the Gospel of God’s unconditional love to the entire world. As we are called to participate in the ministry of Christ sharing God’s love with the world, let’s ask ourselves with great wonder and excitement, “What is in God’s mystery basket now?”