Then I found a recipe for Southwestern Meat Loaf. It’s still meat loaf—ground meat, finely chopped vegetables, filler, binder of eggs and dairy, seasonings, and a tomato product on top.
Instead of white or yellow onions you use scallions. Instead of bell pepper, open a can of chopped green chiles. Instead of bread crumbs or oatmeal, grind up corn tortillas in the food processor. Instead of milk, sour cream fills the dairy bill with the usual eggs. Along with the usual salt and pepper, sprinkle in chili powder, cumin, and chopped fresh cilantro. Instead of ketchup, mix 3 tablespoons of brown sugar in a cup of salsa. Pour a quarter cup of that over the top; save the rest for heating and passing with the finished loaf. Fifteen minutes before it’s done, sprinkle it with Monterey Jack cheese instead of cheddar. Voila! (Or whatever the Mexican word for that is.)
You know what? It still looks like meat loaf, smells like meat loaf, and tastes like meat loaf, just with a different accent, one we happen to prefer. But if someone else came up with a recipe using chunks of beef, broth, potatoes, onions, and carrots we would all think he was nuts to call it meat loaf. It bears no resemblance to the meat loaf pattern—it’s beef stew.
For some reason, that made me think about God’s plan for the church. We can find verse after verse where the apostles, particularly Paul, tell us that God expects us to follow a pattern in each congregation—1 Corinthians 4:17; 7:17; 16:1 and 2:Tim 1:13, just to name a few. But sometimes we mistake an expedient for a flaw in the pattern, and try to legislate where God did not.
Take the Lord’s Supper for instance: grape juice and unleavened bread on the first day of the week. What kind of grapes must the juice come from? What sort of flour must the bread be made of? Most of the time here in America, we use juice made from Concord grapes. They did not have Concord grapes in first century Jerusalem. The grapes they had in Corinth were probably different, too. Today we use wheat flour, usually bleached, all-purpose, white flour. Most likely the early Christians in Palestine used barley flour, and I bet there was nothing white about it—pure, whole grain was all most of them could afford. (Funny how that is the expensive kind today!) In Rome the Christians might have used semolina flour. But there is one thing for certain—everywhere in the world, grapes of some sort are available, and everywhere in the world people eat bread. All they have to do is press the grapes and remove the leavening from the bread recipe.
Following a pattern does not mean we make rules God did not. Two women can each make a dress from the same pattern. One uses satin and trims it in lace; the other can only afford gingham and trims it with rickrack. Did they both follow the pattern? Are the sleeves the same length in the same place? Is the neckline the same? Do they both have a gathered skirt, or is one A-line? Oops. That one changed the pattern. It’s really not that hard to tell, is it?
And that is how we tell if a church is following the pattern. Sometimes we try to force every church into satin and lace, when they are really more suited to gingham and rickrack. But the essentials are there. It is not my job to go around making judgments about details (cultural expedients) as long as the basic pattern is sound.
But that pattern does matter. It has always mattered with God. Read about Nadab and Abihu, Uzzah, or King Uzziah. Then let’s make sure we have found a group of people who do their best to follow God’s pattern, and who do not add their own rules to God’s. After all, meat loaf is meat loaf is meat loaf. But beef stew isn’t!
…even as Moses is warned of God when he is about to make the tabernacle, See, said he, that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you in the mount, Heb 8:5.
For the recipe accompanying this post, click >> Dene's Recipes page