That marinara may, in fact, be the recipe I use more than any other. From it I make pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, and the sauces for eggplant parmagiana, chicken parmagiana, and anything else you can parmagiana. I use it with meatballs, ground beef, and Italian sausage on pasta, and as a dipping sauce for calzones. You can change it up with various herbs and extra vegetables like mushrooms and peppers.
Whenever I serve it, I get remarks like, “Wow! This tastes so—Italian!” Indeed, and why shouldn’t it when it is made the way Italians like it—olive oil, onions, garlic, tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper, and a little tomato paste if your tomatoes are extra juicy. It is simple. I can put it together in ten minutes and let it simmer for 30-40 with only a stir here and there. It has thoroughly spoiled my family.
Once, because it was on sale and we were in a hurry, I picked up a canned sauce, one of the better ones as I recall, not simply Ragu. After the first bite, Keith looked at me and said, “What is this? Tomato syrup?” You see, Americans have become so addicted to sugar that nearly all the processed sauces are full of it.
I watched a blind taste test on a television show once, a homemade tomato sauce made by a trained chef, an authentic Italian sauce a whole lot like mine, against a national brand in a jar. The majority preferred the jarred one. They said the homemade one wasn’t sweet enough. Why doesn’t that make people sit up and take notice? Pasta and sugar? Yuk. It even sounds awful. But that’s what Americans want it seems; not the true, authentic sauce, but the syrupy one they have grown accustomed to.
I think the same thing has happened with religion. It doesn’t matter to us how the first century church did things. What matters is the hoopla, the spectacle, and the histrionics we have grown accustomed to. If it excites us and makes us feel good, that’s what we want. If I can compartmentalize the corporate part of it into a once-every-week-or-so pep rally, and then live as I prefer with no one bothering me about it, then religion has served its purpose.
That religion--mainstream denominational religion--has totally changed its focus. It is nothing but a religion of self. Authentic religion is about God. It wants only what God wants. It lives only for Him and his purpose. It understands that whether I am happy or comfortable or excited has nothing to do with faithfulness. In fact, faithfulness is often shown best when those things are lacking.
Authenticity in religion does matter if you mean to be worshipping someone besides yourself. I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land, Psalm 143:5,6. When David was in trouble, when it mattered how God received him—he thought back to the old days. The prophets often told the people to repent and go back to the old ways, the times when they worshipped God truly, instead of pleasing themselves in hedonistic idolatry.
If you find yourself dissatisfied with your religious life, if you see differences in how your group attempts to worship God and how the original Christians did, maybe it’s time for you to go on the hunt for some authenticity. Do it before you become addicted to the noise and excitement. It is possible to worship in simplicity and truth. It is possible to be encouraged by like minded brothers and sisters who want to please God instead of themselves. In the end, they come far closer to the selfless ideal of their Savior than those who are determined to have what they want “because that’s how I like it,” instead of caring anything at all about how God might like it.
Thus says the LORD: "Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it.' I set watchmen over you, saying, 'Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!' But they said, 'We will not pay attention.' Therefore hear, O nations, and know, O congregation, what will happen to them. Hear, O earth; behold, I am bringing disaster upon this people, the fruit of their devices, because they have not paid attention to my words; and as for my law, they have rejected it, Jer 6:16-19.