This ain’t The Great British Bake Off, but we’re going to try. Somehow this past week my kids didn’t plow through the bananas, which means they’ve gone brown. That’s not bad. Actually, it’s fantastic — because now we get banana bread. A few years ago, Sara discovered a wonderful recipe that we’ve since tweaked a bit and made even better, and over time, I’ve come to think that baking can teach us a lot about the need we have for grace to grow. So, let’s start stirring… 

Eternal Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer! Guide us today by your Word and your Holy Spirit, so that in your light we might see light, and in your truth, we might find freedom, and in your will, we might truly discover joy and peace through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Ephesians 2:1-10

You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

“Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days” — Claudia Hernaman, performed by Advent Birmingham (YouTube video for in-home worship: Click here for Video)

Lord, who throughout these forty days
For us did fast and pray, 
Teach us with you to mourn our sins 
And close by you to stay. 

As you with Satan did contend,
And did the victory win, 
O give us strength in you to fight,
In you to conquer sin. 

As you did hunger and did thirst,
So teach us, gracious Lord, 
To die to self, and so to live 
By your most holy Word. 

And through these days of penitence, 
And through your Passiontide,
Forevermore, in life and death, 
O Lord, with us abide. 

Abide with us, that through this life
Of doubts and hope and pain,
An Easter of unending joy
We may at last attain! 

My son, who is three, loves to bake. I don’t know what first turned him onto it, but he’s been stirring and mixing for months now. I think it’s how he copes with Covid. At first, Marty simply helped us out in the kitchen. He’d hold the spoon as we poured in the vanilla, or he’d turn the mixer on and watch the sugar and butter transform into cream. One day, though, he decided to venture out on his own and start creating. Recipes, it seems, had become far too restrictive. That boy needed to feel the wind of freedom in his hair — and it usually looked a lot like flour.

Needless to say, we’ve been blessed with plenty of strange and unique creations these past few months. Want a recipe for Chili Powder and Oregano Pancakes? I’ve got one. Or what about Brown Sugar and Lime Coffee Cake? Or his special “Spicy Nut” Everything Batter? You’d be amazed how not terrible his creations are. I’ve actually found myself going back for seconds (except for the pancakes…there’s just not much you can do to counteract a half cup of chili per cake!)

Truth be told, though, Marty’s creations tend to turn out rubbery and flat. He seems to have some aversion to baking soda, which if you’ve spent any time baking, you know that means things aren’t going to rise how you want them to. Forget the baking soda or powder? Better plan to eat hubcaps for breakfast.

I think of baking soda and baking powder as active ingredients, like what you see on the back of pill bottles. Without them, what you want to happen just doesn’t. The same thing could be said about the Christian life. Grace gives rise to our healing and our flourishing. Without it, what we want to happen just doesn’t. Take a look back at Ephesians 2. God’s grace is over and over again described as the active ingredient in our salvation: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” In fact, Paul begins this passage by talking about how we’re all “dead in sin,” but the Spirit of God has started to work something special in us. God’s grace breathes in new life. It gives rise to those good works that God has planned for us from the beginning.

We can’t fix even what we can see if we’re doing it all alone.

In the deep and difficult days of Lent, as we continue to dig down into our lives and try to uncover our hidden sins, it can be tempting to think that once we’ve discovered them, we’re all set. After all, there’s truth to the saying that you can’t fix what you can’t see, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do. But, it’s also true that we can’t fix even what we can see if we’re doing it all alone. Thank God, then, that he’s promised to give us grace. That grace is our baking soda. It’s that often forgotten ingredient that makes everything work. It’s the Holy Spirit working in our lives right alongside of us to heal us and to make us into better people. 

So, this Lent, don’t forget that you’re not at this all alone. It’s not all up to you. God isn’t one to forget the soda. Things may look daunting, and you might even be ready to throw in the towel. But, there’s still grace for you, and one day, that grace will raise you up.

Closing Prayer
God of Grace! Thank you for your mercy, your love, and your promise to work in our lives to heal us and to save us and to make us into the people that you created us to be — people who, like Christ Jesus, do good. Amen.