Monday, July 21, 2008

Discerning God's will... with muffins!

A little over a year ago, our little Idaho parish (St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Coeur d’Alene) hired a “transitional deacon,” who was ordained a priest earlier this summer (pictured at left, h/t Robert Peterson) and is now the full curate, or assistant rector, or whatever you want to call him. By all accounts, Fr. Dave’s ministry has been amazing. He has started a well-attended third Sunday morning family service, writes a weekly email newsletter, experiments with adult education (a class based on HBO’s Six Feet Under!), and more. One of my chief regrets about spending my time in New Hampshire and DC is that I’m not in Idaho to learn from Dave’s ministry, but at least I can rejoice from afar in the energy that he has brought to our parish life.

Each of Fr. Dave’s email newsletters contains a sermon-like reflection at the end, and I rather liked the most recent one, and with his blessing, thought I’d pass it along.

Food has been in the news lately. I’m one of those live-to-eat type people (instead of eat-to-live) so I like to read stories about food. One story that I follow is how the City of New York is handling food.

As you may remember, the city council passed a law that made it illegal to use transfat in any food prepared and served in New York. Recently, the city council declared that all chain restaurants must print the calorie count of each food in the same size and font as the price. The law goes into effect on Friday (with up to a $2k fine per violation).

New Yorkers woke up this morning to a shock – their Starbucks scone has a calorie count of 470 and their favorite chocolate chip muffin at Dunkin Doughnuts has 630 calories! According to an article, T.G.I Friday’s serves a pecan-crusted chicken salad, with mandarin oranges, dried cranberries and celery, which weighs in at 1,360 calories. Compare that to the cheeseburger and fries that has 1,290 calories.

The City Council passed this law in an attempt to curb rising obesity rates and the onset of diabetes. This measure could reduce the number of obese New Yorkers by 150,000 over the next five years, and prevent 30,000 cases of diabetes, according to the MSNBC article.

I think this is an exercise in truth telling. It’s a way for the consumer to evaluate more than just taste and value. This is a way for the consumer to decide how many calories she or he is going to ingest. Truth telling is not easy. Sometimes, hearing the truth hurts. Sometimes it is shocking (a 630 calorie muffin, OMG!!!).

Jesus was in to truth telling. It seems that he constantly was telling truth that many did not want to hear – things like, you clean the outside of the cup but the inside is dirty; are you sure you can drink from the cup that I am about to; you take the speck of dust out of your neighbors eye but what about the log of wood in yours; ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.

Jesus was also into giving us choices. You can choose to treat others and you wish to be treated. You can choose to follow His ways. It is your choice to love your neighbor as yourself. You can’t force love. It is only a choice. Not even God can force you to love God, yourself, or your neighbor. It’s all your choice.

How do we find the truth in our daily life. More to the point, how do we find the calorie counts in the things we choose to do? Jesus was fond of saying that the truth will eventually be uncovered. But how do we know what the 610 calorie cookie is in our life?

Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do about food labeling in our part of the country. Nevertheless, we can find those places in life that we should avoid. We do this through discernment. In my view, an important role of the church in our life and in the community is helping with discernment.

Discernment starts with prayer and being open to God’s will in your life. Discernment also happens in community. Through dialog and discussion with people you trust in your life; through weighing positives and negatives with a trusted friend, and then praying to let God’s will be know; through these actions, you will begin to see where the 470 calorie scones are and were the healthy food is to nourish yourself.

If you need help discerning something in your life, let your community know. We will walk with you along the dark and murky path until your path becomes visible. After all, we cling to the hope that what is in darkness will be made light, that what is not known will be made known, that things that are old will be made new, that things covered will be uncovered, that those who grieve will find gladness, those who are sick will be made well. … all for the sake of God’s Kingdom.

I think I’ll head out and get a chocolate chip muffin. Or on second thought, maybe I won’t.


A Blogspotting Anglican Episcopalian said...

Thank you. I came across you muffin posting and your blog. I had just finished a muffin.

Enjoyed what I've read so far and look forward to reading more.

I've linked to your recent posting from A Blogspotting Anglican Episcopalian ( have added your blog to my blog role.

Again, thank you.

Dan Porter

Nathan Empsall said...

Thank you for the kind words, Dan! I've blogrolled you as well. :)