what our chili cook-off taught me about church

“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” – 1 Corinthians 1:10-13

IMG_6880Our church “Holy Hay Day” this past Sunday was a lot of fun. The rain certainly didn’t help, and some of the activities had to be relocated inside, but we still enjoyed great music, fun games, awesome fellowship, youth and children in abundance, and – my personal favorite – generous helpings of wonderful food.

For me, one of the highlights is always the “Chili Cook-off,” where different ministry areas prepare their best and most unique interpretation and share it with the whole church. Some offer a version of the more traditional recipe, while some push the chili envelope.

It’s kind of like the church, you could say; Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Orthodox, Episcopalian etc.. Tasting the chili prepared by the Explorations adult education class is an entirely different experience from savoring the sample offered by the Stumbling Disciples – but it’s chili all the same.

IMG_6877Some entries included red meat (ground beef or steak), some involved chicken, some were vegetarian. Some of the concoctions were tomato-based while others featured a white sauce. One enterprising team offered cornbread with their chili. A couple of the chilis could have been tackled using a knife and fork, most of them required a spoon.

Ingredients were all over the map. However, at the definitive core of each enthusiastic yummy presentation, all the concoctions were one hundred percent chili. I know this because I sampled them all, and then I went back for a little more to help me pick my favorite and vote.

Ecumenical chili!

This was in a sense an ecumenical coming together at its best. My chili – which happens to be beyond awesome (read my “perfect” recipe here) but did not make an appearance at the cook-off – involves tenderloin steak. I would not, however, begin to suggest the others are in any way unworthy of the “chili” label.

The Stumbling Disciples class did not picket the Practical Christianity crock-pot; the SALT study-group did not say any of the other entries were going straight to hell as false teachers of chili; the meat-centric recipes were not touted as closer to the chili truth; the tomato-based crowd do not claim the only “authoritative” interpretation; nobody accused the white sauce practitioners of godless liberalism; and the vegetarian cooks were not dismissed as “snowflakes.”

Enjoy these chili photos. Do everything you can to make your chili the very best it can be, fine tune the ingredients, by all means tout its benefits, and share your interpretation with the world. Just remember what makes chili chili, and never compromise its essential definitive soul.

That sounds a lot like Christianity. It’s about following Jesus. Jesus is God’s wide-open invitation to come home. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. That’s it in a nutshell.

Sunday afternoon at Holy Hay Day? I don’t actually know who won the cook-off. But I’m guessing it was probably Jesus.


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