I graduated from seminary with a sense that theology would change the world. In part, I was right: the truth of who God is has changed everything about who I am and everything about the community in which I live. I walk the streets with this inheritance in hand – hope for any and everyone whom I encounter. Truly, theology is changing the world in an unstoppable, unrelenting, powerful way.
But the morning routine to which I have grown accustomed in this season of life would offend my seminary self. I wake up early and sit with my Bible and my God before I wander into the kitchen for my second cup of coffee. There, I knead the bread that will rise during my work day, that I will bake this evening to take to a dear young couple in our church who is expecting their first child. Morning sickness has rendered this new mother unable to eat much, but plain bread seems to do the trick. I pray for her as I knead whole wheat flour and sourdough starter together with my hands. I see Austin off to the gym abnormally alone since I’m not feeling 100% this morning, and I set about making banana bread for our House Church meeting this evening. I set out the chicken and peppers for dinner, counting the raw chicken breasts in their packaging to make sure we have enough for a third person to spontaneously join. A ministry partner is in town this week and I want to make sure there is always enough for him to join for a home-cooked meal when he is able, a break from the Chick-fil-a partner meetings he is having this week. I pack lunches – my husband’s and my own – and scoop surplus banana bread dough into mini muffin pans to take to my co-workers who desperately need Jesus and also need the nourishment of knowing someone thought of them today.
Today, I’ll head out to my day-job working at a brewery. It’s not glamorous work and not the work I would have chosen for myself, but it’s the work God has given me in this season. Before I head into the day, I think through which of my co-workers might want to come for dinner and then to House Church. I wonder about who has been hurt by the church, who will receive the first invitation to dinner with skepticism, and who will receive the second invitation to House Church with contempt. I also wonder who is hungry, seeking for an open door and an open table of friendship and discipleship. I mentally plan out my invitation, breathing a prayer of petition to the Lord who knows all things.
I feed my sourdough starter and return it to the fridge.
When I graduated seminary, I would have told you that ministry is everywhere and for everyone. But I didn’t believe it. In the hidden places of my heart I believed that ministry was for professionals and that you could only be truly effective when you spent your nine-to-five within the walls of the church. True ministry, I secretly and shamefully believed, was vocational ministry. It was a wicked belief, one that does violence to my own kind in ministry and to the God who has sent His call to Kingdom work far and wide.
The Bible portrays God as a Bridegroom who sent out an invitation to His neighbors to come and join in His feast. When most were too busy, He scooped up the lame who could not walk and the sickly who could not come on their own. The discouraged and ordinary and downtrodden and infirm entered through His front doors and sat at His table. Of course, this was always God’s intention – to swing the doors of the Church wide, wide, wide open and welcome each and every one of our sickly hearts to partake of His table fellowship. He broke the bread of His body and poured out the wine of His blood so that you and I could limp our way in, scooped up in the massive strength of His grace, and be carried to sit at the table with Him.
Because this is our God, this is also our theology. And today, we put into practice whom we believe God to be. From the church office chair where my husband sits and from my brewery office chair where I sit, we both practice the truth of God: our doors are open, our table is set for any and all to come. Austin will invite the broken-hearted Christian and the hard-hearted Christian and the eager-to-grow Christian to our table to be fed and nourished and prayed over and heard. And I will invite the broken-hearted lost and the heard-hearted lost and the eager-to-learn lost to our table to be fed and nourished and prayed over and heard. And in doing so, we will truly believe that this theology will change the world, that it will change us and those who sit around our table.
This view of God and subsequent view of ministry renders my grandmother’s Italian loaf recipe and my mom’s banana bread recipe just as valuable as my Greek and Hebrew studies. Where I used to embarrassingly believe that hosting and meal prep was for women unlike me – women less rigorous in their pursuit of ministry – I have learned to receive these tasks as the light yoke of Christ, calling me to come and glean where He is gleaning and to walk among the people He is walking among. These small acts of hospitality and obedience are not something to despise, as I shamefully once did. I hear the charged inquiry of God: Who dares despise the day of small things? (Zechariah 4:10). I did. I despised the way baking bread for a young mom made me feel like the gendered stereotype I created in my own mind, and I rejected the way the invitational phrase “Dinner is at 6” feels homely on my lips. But here, around our tables and in our kitchen, God is on the move. Brick by brick He is building His Kingdom, and He’s doing it through small and unimpressive tasks and people. Through bread, through chicken and peppers for dinner, and through sourdough starter. Through you and through me. In His kindness and generosity and in the upside-down way of His Kingdom, God has seen fit to use these small things – this ordinary, daily, practiced theology – to change us. And maybe even change the world.