A few months ago, I was talking about recipes with another woman and she asked me, "Do you still eat casseroles?" She went on to explain that when she takes food to families with sick mothers or to after-funeral dinners, when she asks if there is anything they do not like, "casseroles" was a common complaint. Some of my favorite meals from childhood were casseroles, but, I realized, I hadn't cooked many of the things myself lately. Squash casserole during garden season might have been the last one. But I do still cook them. Turkey pot pie, turkey divan, beef and noodle surprise, baked ziti, and who can even exist without lasagna?
So as I was running my fingers over my cookbooks that day they came to rest on the Favorite Recipes of America Series, Casseroles volume (copyright 1968). Suddenly I made the decision. This week will be retro-casserole week! And we have thoroughly enjoyed the memories these old dishes have brought back to us. One of my favorites has been a slightly updated "green bean casserole." How is it updated, you ask? Throwing together homemade mushroom cream sauce (rather than a can of cream of mushroom soup), and adding some buttered panko crumbs to the French-fried onions to make an extra crispy topping. Green Bean Casserole is once again in my regular repertoire. The best part? It's still green bean casserole. Nothing I did changed what is essentially beans, mushroom cream sauce, and fried onions.
Have you noticed how old things are brought back in style lately and labeled "retro?" As long as you smack that title on it, people will accept it. Except, it seems, religion. Such has always been the case. God's people tired of His simple, solemn service and His carefully followed rituals. They much preferred the excitement that their neighbors' idolatry brought. It began with gradual changes—but things that were actually changes, not simply a better tasting mushroom cream sauce. Jeroboam put up golden calves in both Dan and Bethel, to worship Jehovah, mind you, in much more convenient locations (and places that kept them from being tempted to join back with Judah). Then he changed the Levitical priesthood. Then he changed the feast days. The ones who knew better, mostly the priests, left for Jerusalem, which accounts for the need to begin a different priesthood than the Aaronic. There were few of those left.
But before long, even that wasn't enough. Convenience was good, but excitement was better. And idolatry delivered that in spades. Just look at the famous contest on Mt Carmel. We think all that jumping around and hollering was because the false prophets couldn't get their god to answer them. Perhaps a little, but it was normal for that kind of worship. And once Jehovah answered Elijah's call, what did the people do? We stop reading far too soon because of the chapter division. All that yelling, "Jehovah he is God," fit right into their new style of worship service. It probably went on for hours. They probably screamed it and cheered every time Elijah lopped off a head. "Hey! Now this is what we had in mind. This is real worship," they were probably thinking. These people were not brought back to repentance one little bit. And how do I know? Because when Ahab got home that night and made his report, nothing had changed. Jezebel was still in control—and the people allowed it. Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time. (1Kgs 19:2).
Elijah knew the score. And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. (1Kgs 19:3-4). These people wanted nothing to do with bringing back the old ways, with worshipping God the way He had instructed them so long before. And it only continued throughout their history until finally, they went too far and He destroyed most of them.
We need to wake up, people. I am all for updating that green bean casserole—but not for changing its very essence. If you take out the beans and add carrots, it is no longer green bean casserole; it's something entirely different. When I can no longer tolerate vegetables at all, but want a dish full of cotton candy, I am just catering to an immature intellect that mistakes emotion for true reverence. It isn't about what I like. It's about what God commands.
As you can tell, my week of retro-casseroles has brought up a lot more than good memories. Let's take some time to examine what is happening around us and make sure we haven't thrown out our Casserole Cookbook just because of some fad diet that everyone has glommed onto. Good nutrition for the soul is not always popular, but it is always healthy.
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." (Jer 6:16).