Marinating in Liturgy

Sometimes I don’t have a recipe. I have an idea of what I want, but I don’t want to go find a recipe that both ticks the boxes of what I want and also meets my requirement of I-have-all-the-ingredients/substitutes. This happens to me a lot when it comes to marinades. I don’t buy bottled mixes (I don’t plan that well and they are expensive) and, as we have discussed previously, I’m not that great at following recipes. So sometimes, I’m making up a marinade.

The beauty of a marinade is that it is basically a chemical formula that can be customized to fit your flavor profile: you need an acid to break down the tough fibers of the meat (eg vinegar, citrus juice), a fat to absorb into the meat and to bind the flavors to the protein (eg oil) and whatever other flavors you wish to incorporate. So = 1 part acid, 2 parts fat, 1 part everything else. And voila! A marinade to make your food yummy! So for an easy Asian marinade, I went with the below combination:

Asian Marinade

For 2-3 pounds of meat

1/4 c rice vinegar
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 c soy sauce
2 c oil
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbs ground ginger (fresh minced is even better)
1 tsp red pepper flakes

      1. Whisk together all ingredients and pour over meat. Refrigerate in a non-corrosive container (eg. ziploc bag, stainless steel, glass or ceramic) for at least two hours, overnight is ideal.

To me, growing up with kitchen chemistry is much like having grown up in church. I mean that somewhat literally– my mom is the daughter of a food chemist and my dad is a Presbyterian minister and has been since before he even met my mother. Following God’s call for my father’s ministry, we moved around a number of times, starting from scratch each time. While that process was sometimes challenging, just like beginning to cook without a recipe, I started to learn that we were never truly starting from scratch. God was preparing a congregation to meet us and preparing us to become a part of that new congregation.

Our congregations were fairly similar to one another– midsize family churches with some young families and just as many shut-ins, with traditional, liturgical worship services with remarkable organists and always a Church Martha. And even after I moved out on my own and started choosing my own churches, I chose the same sort of church. In many ways, I am a creature of habit.

What I’ve realized is that whenever I became a part of a new church, I didn’t have to start from scratch in figuring out what I wanted and needed. There is a basic formula which has flexibility in the flavors, but not in the chemical makeup (fat and acid). The flavor of my church was variable (the music, style, chairs vs pews) but the core was not (theology). I have found that the liturgy somehow seems to combine these two in just the right way for me.

With the new year, I have been reflecting on my preference for liturgy and how that also relates to how I see the church body as it manifests in the congregation. My favorite parts of worship are the creeds, confessions and corporate responses. Why? Because it is in these that I feel most connected to those around me, not just on any given Sunday morning, but with every single confessing Christian in the history of the faith. While they are comforting because they are familiar, these pieces of liturgy are of so much more value than simply comfort. These are the pieces that remind me what it means to be a part of the Body of Christ and not just another Christian trying to figure it all out. Not only are there 150 other Christians standing next to me proclaiming the same truths and desperately praying the same confession, there is a history of millions of believers who have laid the foundation upon which we stand today.

I don’t know about you, but I need that. I need that grounding and connection on a daily basis. Outside of the church, we are so frequently encouraged to break the mold and blaze our own trail that I usually end up feeling lost. (I would have done poorly in Montessori.) The pressures to be creative and unique leave me feeling like I must start from scratch in everything I do, inventing everything from my own recipes to wedding to career, something no one has ever seen before. But the thing is, Jesus didn’t come to Earth to let us figure it all out on our own. He came not only to offer the ultimate and necessary sacrifice, but to teach us what to do with that new life. Even after he ascended into Heaven, he left behind disciples to go into the world and teach us how to live as his followers. We have a foundation to stand upon. We need not reinvent the wheel with each new worship service. I don’t say this to discourage you from finding new ways to meet and interact with God, no, not at all. But I do say this to remind you that those trails have already been well-worn, tramped out by pilgrims long before you.

Being a part of a Christian congregation is worth so much more than to simply have someone to give the sermon, to play the music, to pray with you. Being a part of a Christian congregation is where we learn to stand on that foundation. The church family gives us guidance and accountability, instruction and inspiration. It is from our fellow believers that we learn to parent our children and respect our parents, to serve others and worship the Lord, to study the Word and grow in his promises. This community is where we feed one another and learn to see ourselves the way our Heavenly Father sees us.

For me, the liturgy brings me closer to this community as we unite with one another past, present and future. God teaches us through those interactions and experiences and the lessons we learn can be passed on to future generations through the liturgy. We stand on the shoulders of giants as our congregation proclaims the creeds and learn the catechism; we build on the foundation as we add to that great body of work, not starting from scratch, but from the same foundation, the same community, the same faith.

Thank God recipes don’t have to be made from scratch, either.


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