The 250 Dollar Recipe

The Rev. Joseph Winston November 22, 2009

M

ATTHEW

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“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what

you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will
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wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Look at

the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?
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And why do you

worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.
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But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today

and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” 1

Sermon
Grace and peace are gifts for you from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Have you been so impressed by a meal that you wished to repeat it once again at home? Have you craved something on the menu so much that you would do whatever it takes to have it one more time? Have you eaten something so lovely that you just had to have the recipe? Apparently, these feelings of want for good food are quite common. As if to prove this point, a few years ago, there was an email going around that started off something like this. My daughter and I had been out all day shopping and it was time to get something to eat. I had always heard good things about the food at the Neiman-Marcus Caf´ so we decided to stop there for lunch. We both purchased salads, which we e absolutely loved. The holiday spirit in the air made us want something extra, a little dessert to finish off the day. The smell of freshly baked cookies in the caf´ e sealed the deal for us. We both ordered one “Neiman-Marcus Cookie.” They were divine. They were warm and full of chocolate. When it came time to pay, I asked the waitress if I could have the recipe for the cookies. She said, “I am afraid not.” With all the Christmass parties just a few days away, I needed the recipe. I knew that all my friends would absolutely adore these cookies. I wanted to make them for everyone. “Well,” I asked, “Could I purchase the recipe then?”
Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, Philemon 1:3.
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Immediately, she said, “Yes.” When I asked how much, the waitress quickly responded with, “Two-fifty. It is a great deal for a terrific cookie.” I told her to add it to my bill and I thought nothing more about the cost. I only wanted to go home, rest a bit, and then fire up the oven and bake these cookie. It might not be that you go to the store in Dallas. It is even possible that you do not life shopping at all. Despite these potential differences between you and the narrator of the story, you share something in common with the author. This is exactly how you lead your life. You get up in the morning. You do what is required. You take care of your needs. Finally, when you complete all your work, you crawl into bed hoping to get the rest you need for tomorrow. Today’s Gospel lesson challenges the way that you live. This assault on the Protestant work ethic begins right away. Jesus says to all of us,2 Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. (NRSV Matthew 6:25a) This sentence from Jesus strike very close to home. You certainly have cares that you must face every day. Life is not easy. It never has been. There are bills to pay and work to do. Throw in all the different complications of modern existence and you soon do not have any time for yourself. There are trips to see the doctors, hours of thankless work needed to clean up the house for the holidays, and all the baking for friends and family that is required during this time of the year. The more you look at your hectic schedule, the worse it gets. Children and grandchildren
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All the uses of you (ςύ) are plural in this verse.

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need help during the day. Just about every trip into town takes more time than expected because of the traffic. Due to the poor economy, relatives cannot find work. Then there are all the personal issues that bother you. The cold, wet weather of the past few days that makes your joints ache. The report you recently received from the doctor that warns you of the changes that lie ahead. Then there is that empty seat at the table that can never be filled. This weighs heavily on your heart. It is easy for you to continue this list of concerns that face you every day. You realize that you must eat. That is a constant in our world. If you are lucky, you can completely live off the land. Even the rural lifestyle comes with its own unique set of problems. The country, county, and city demand the payment of taxes. That money must come from somewhere. It must be earned through labor. On top of all the effort required to keep your head above water, you still have to work in the fields raising your crops, to spend hours taking care of your animals, and finally to expend energy in bringing the harvest home. You tell a similar story if you live like the rest of us. Food costs money. That requires work. You put in your hours. You pay your taxes. You go to the grocery store. You purchase what you need. You worry if you can make the ends meet. You see the costs of health care. It is being debated all over this country. Dentists want to be paid. Doctors are not getting any cheaper either. Insurance is taking a bigger and bigger bite out of your paycheck. Medicines are more expensive than ever. Add it all up and there is less money for you. You realize all of this. You see it every time you pay a medical bill. This is the life you live. Then there are all the other expenses associated with living here in the United 4

States. Housing is not getting any cheaper. Cars cost more than ever. Then there is clothing. Even the discount brands take more money than last year. It is difficult to live. You see this all the time. It seems to require all of your attention. There does not appear to be time for anything else. Turning back to the email about the recipe, it was a few weeks later when I received the statement from Neiman-Marcus in the mail. You would think by now they would have on-line payment. I have to admit that I did not open it right away because it came in around Christmass. Finally, after all the festivities finished, I sat down with all the other mail that came in during the holidays and I reviewed the bills. Imagine my surprise when I saw the total expenditure at Neiman-Marcus of three hundred and twenty five dollars. That could not be right. I remembered spending about twenty-five dollars at the caf´ for the two salads and drinks and e around one hundred dollars on perfumes. But where did I spend the other two hundred and fifty dollars? The receipt held the answer. It said, “Neiman-Marcus cookie recipe” – two hundred and fifty dollars. No recipe in the world is worth that amount. I immediately picked up the phone and called the accounting department at Neiman-Marcus. After waiting on hold for what seemed like an eternity, a human being finally picked up the phone. It took her a few minutes to find my bill. “Do you have any questions?”, she asked. “Why of course,” I answered. “Why was I charged two hundred and fifty dollars for a recipe? The waitress in the caf´ e clearly said two-fifty. You have to agree that amount does not mean two hundred and fifty dollars.” The representative calmly replied to me, “I am sorry for the 5

misunderstanding. Our standard charge for any recipe for an item in the caf´ is e two hundred and fifty dollars. I cannot remove any item from your bill unless the item still is new and it is in its original packaging. That is our policy on everything. You see we only sell the finest merchandise in the entire world. We are not a resale shop. Certainly, by now, you have at least looked at the recipe. Probably, you have used it. We cannot take it back.” I have never been one to beg, so I cut to the chase, “I am going to tell everyone that I know what happened to me. I will not set foot in your store again. And by the way, I am emailing all my friends this recipe.” That is why you are receiving this email from me. I count you as a close friend and I believe you would like the enclosed recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Please pass the entire story with the instructions for the “Neiman-Marcus Cookie” on to whomever you know. If only you acted like the poor shopper, who was billed two hundred and fifty dollars for a recipe. I wish you were as upset about the cost of life as that person who ate that famous cookie was. You should be telling everyone you know what is happening here inside these four walls. They need to be told the truth about the world. But you do not. This attitude is literally killing us. By now, you realize that you will die. That is not news to anyone. You would hope that the sure certainty of death influenced your daily behavior. It is not. You continue to only focus on this life. You know in excruciating detail how much it costs to live. You still fill up all the hours of the day with work. Right now is all that actually concerns you. Do not get me wrong. It is good to work. That is one of God’s gifts to you. 6

You need to have focus. God also graced you with the ability to complete the tasks assigned to you. The problem is what you are looking at. By only placing your eyes on today’s problems, you ignore both yesterday and tomorrow.3 You forget what God did in the past. You do not remember how He brought your family safely to this place. You do not recall how He cared for your parents. You no longer know the story of how Jesus bought you with a great cost. In other words, you do not have faith that God acted in the past. You also are not looking ahead. You do not see what awaits you. Your vision of God’s plan for you is lacking. You do not realize that God wants your time and talents. This means that you do not have faith in God to work out His plan for you. Just as important, by focusing on the issues of the day you actually miss God. You do not see Him working right here. Jesus tells you in today’s Gospel Lesson to look around. See the birds flying in the air. God takes care of them. Take a hard look at your life. There are things outside of your control that only God can do. Look down at the ground. See what happens there. Beauty comes and goes. God gives the plants clothes that the kings only wish they have. By moving your eyes away from your constant concerns, you have a chance to see God in action. This is the Good News. God is always with you no matter what you do. Today’s teaching form Christ also gives you the gift of perspective. By asking you to look up, Jesus points out to you all that happens during a day. The sunrises,
We have abandoned the faith since the culture of consumerism tells us that the only important time is the eternal now; we have no past and we have no future. Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, (Fortress Press, 1978), p. 11.
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it sets, the clouds move, and the wind blows. By making you stare at your life, Christ reminds you of the process that is living. You are born, you age, and then you die. By directing your vision on the plants of the field, Jesus lets you see the seasons: spring with its time of planning, summer where nature grows, fall means the time of harvest, and Winter brings the time of rest. This work of the Lord gives you faith. You see that He has helped you in the past and you trust that this continues for the rest of your life. That is why on Thursday, you stop what you normally do so that you can remember what you have. This gives you a chance to thank God for His work in your life. You take the day off, not to have a bit more turkey and dressing, but to raise up your voice in prayer to the One who made it all possible. By now, it should be completely clear to you that the email about the NeimanMarkus cookies is totally false. It is just one of those stories that are too good to be true. During the nineties, a similar version made the rounds but this time Mrs. Field’s cookies took that place of Neiman-Marcus. Sixty years ago around 1948, the story involved paying twenty-five dollars for a cake recipe from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. There is something that you can learn from this. You like to repeat meals. Certainly, your Thanksgiving dinner contains recipes handed down from your parents. You want to have consistency in your life. On Thursday, you are celebrating God’s bounty with the rest of the nation. You also like passing on your traditions. That is why your family joins you at the dinner table during the holiday. You hope that they continue with what was first given to you. 8

The Church teaches you these same lessons. You read the same Bible as your parents and their parents before them. You use the same form of worship that they did. You also go and tell others what happens here in Church. You pray that the Holy Spirit brings others to faith and that they learn what God first gave you. “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”4

References
Brueggemann, Walter, The Prophetic Imagination, (Fortress Press, 1978).

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Philippians 4:7.

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