Sermon – 26 August 18 – 10am – David

A sermon preached by Bishop David on John 6:56-69 and Ephesians 6:10-20

With the great British Bake Off looming on the horizon,  a week last Wednesday I decided to make a chocolate cake. It was the Feast of the Assumption, the girls had gone out for a walk
so I thought I would surprise them with a treat on their return.
Step one: find the Bero Cook Book. This slim volume has been a good friend to me since the 1970s, and after several minutes’ frantic searching I found it squeezed between Nigella Lawson and Delia Smith in Rachel’s substantial library of recipe books.
Step Two: weigh out six ounces of Self-Raising flour into large measuring jug. Easy-peasy. Flour in cupboard to right of cooker, scales also to right of cooker, measuring jug in cupboard to left of sink. The measuring jug is an old friend and we have conspired together for years to make illicit dumplings for my favourite stews.
Step three: add two ounces of cocoa. Getting a bit tricky now. No cocoa in cupboard to left of cooker, but remember Rachel likes to drink cocoa of an evening, like those Aztec gods we studied in the Third Form. Find tub of Divine Cocoa with evening drinks stuff in corner and tip it into jug, but sadly only 3/4 of an ounce. Rummage through 17 kitchen cupboards like a zealous customs official searching for illicit drugs and eventually find tub with stash of Traidcraft tea in cupboard next to recycling bin.
Step four: add eight ounces of caster sugar. Find seven ounces of granulated sugar in flour cupboard, and wearied by my search for cocoa, decide that will do.
Step five: mix thoroughly. Ever the romantic, I bought Rachel a powerful new mixer last Christmas so set it on full and plunge it into mix. Result: mushroom cloud of cocoa dust
pothers up and descends on Curly Kale which Rachel has left soaking in washing up bowl.
Decide cocoa can only improve the wretched stuff’s taste so plough on regardless.
Step six. Add four ounces of olive spread and mix in, covering jug with hand to prevent further chocolate mushroom clouds. Pleased with resulting mix, which looks like a chocolate crumble.
Step seven. Pour five Tbspoons of condensed milk into small jug. Not sure what a Tbspoon is,
nor do I want to rummage in 17 cupboards again in search of condensed milk, so decide normal milk will do. Discover Tbspoon is 15 ml, so do the Maths and measure 75 mls.
Step eight: Instructed to pour five Tbspoons  of normal milk into jug, so repeat exercise
with strange sense of culinary déjà vou.
Step nine: Mix in two eggs. Decide eggs look a bit small, so add extra one.
Step ten: mix in eggs and milk with chocolate crumble. Looks a bit runny, but never mind.
Step eleven: pour mixture into two greased 8 inch cake tins. Mm. Encountered oven tin cupboard earlier. Brim full of oven tins which pour out like an alpine avalanche as soon as you open door. Open door, snatch out two circular tins and slam door shut, resting knee against it to stave off aforementioned avalanche. Contents of cupboard sound as angry as inmates of Birmingham jail after lock down.
Step twelve: find tape measure in tool box in garage and am delighted that two snatched tins
exactly measure eight inches diameter, including rims. Bero Cook book does not mention rims,
which I guess weren’t invented in 1970s.
Step thirteen: tip slab of butter into dish and use its wrapper to grease tins. Preheat oven to 180 degrees and insert tins containing very runny cake mix, which slops from side to side like North Bay spring tide.
Step fourteen: leave cooking for 20 mins whilst I amuse myself making fudge cream filling. Use slab of butter evicted from wrapper, add two Tbspoons of treacle which I find lurking next to Quaker Oats box and melt in pan, adding two tbspoons of dark brown sugar I had previously discovered in my search for cocoa. No pain, no gain!
Step fifteen: add four ounces of icing sugar to pan. Bit worried about pan melting scales so cool it off by dipping it into washing up bowl soaking curly kale. Sizzling sound accompanied by smell of burning kale and cocoa. Mix in icing sugar forming a fudge-like lump.
Step sixteen: melt three bars of CDM into water bath. Discover red plastic bowl which contained last year’s Christmas pud in cupboard next to oven-tin cupboard, still in lock-down, with noisy riot unabated. Put CDM into bowl gently melt in milk pan containing boiling water.
Step seventeen: cake been cooking for nineteen minutes now. Bero Cook book tells me to prod with skewer and if skewer comes clean, it’s cooked. Rummage in twelve drawers. Shout ow! in 12th drawer and realise I’ve found skewer. Stab into cake, then wash skewer in bowl containing Curly Kale and since it comes clean, deem cake cooked. Seems a funny test, but there again.
Step eighteen: tip cakes out onto cooling rack. Oh no, I’ve got to go back into oven tin cupboard,
still under riot conditions. Open door and am immediately viciously assaulted by Yorkshire pudding tin and liberated loose bottom of loose-bottom-cake tin. Snatch rack and slam door to prevent further escapes, kicking Yorkshire pudding tin and liberated loose bottom to other side of kitchen to be dealt with later.
Step nineteen: bang cake tins on kitchen shelf and tip out onto rack. Oh dear – concave hemisphere size of half cricket ball perfectly hollowed out in each half. Stomach turns as I recalled curacy in Middlesbrough days where lady had left her Christmas cakes to cool on living room floor only to find her mangy dog had taken bite out of each. Reassured me when she presented me with cake that she had filled hole with marzipan. Didn’t fancy that solution.
Instead, like skilled plastic surgeon moving skin from one part of body to another, sliced slithers off thicker part of hot cake and pressed them into hollow. Quickly use fudge cream as glue
spread on and slap two repaired halves of cake together.
Step twenty: Quickly cover with melted chocolate as girls return from walk.
‘I’ve made you a cake for the feast of the Assumption of our Lady into heaven,’ I declare, voice slightly shrill.
Thing is, the cake actually turned out great. But even if it hadn’t done,its preparation had involved twenty stressful steps, all for love.
Never mind the finished product, do we take into account those massive steps?
In our Gospel Jesus declares himself the bread which came down from heaven. Just think how many fraught stages cooking that bread had taken. The entire of the Old Testament, all those wanderings, all those prophets recalling God’s people to the true recipe, the ingredients highlighted in our reading from Paul.
Take a pinch of truth, four ounces of righteousness, five tbspoons of peace, greased with faith,
spread with salvation, all covered with the Word of God gently warmed in a font’s water bath.
Truth; righteousness; peace; faith; salvation; God’s word: six essential ingredients for our daily spiritual bake. Which cupboard are they in? Are they easy to access? Or have they suffered decades of neglect, forgotten behind the Five Spice jar?
Then the Annunciation, the birth at Bethlehem, the flight to Egypt, the baptism by John, the ministry,  the cross, the resurrection: crucial stages in the bake.
There used to be a Gospel song, All the way. Its title’s innuendo used to make me and my fellow curate giggle. But it was a good song.
From heaven above to earth below,
he came all the way for me,
from Bethlehem to Calvary,
all the way for me.
From Calvary to Easter morn,
he came all the way for me,
from heaven above into my heart,
he came all that way FOR ME.
All those frantic stages of baking the bread from heaven: all that for you.
The communion wafers I used at Helmsley I bought from the Carmelite nunnery at Thicket Priory on the banks of the Derwent south of Pocklington, where I’d lived as a boy. It was an enclosed order dedicated to silent prayer, all funded by making the wafers which you bought from a silent sister who took your written down order through a grill.
1000 people’s wafers; 20 priest’s wafers, God bless!
Every time I celebrated at Helmsley I used to think of all that the bread of life had done to reach me since 33 AD, two thousand years of the church, of prayer, all the prayer those wonderful sisters put into each wafer. Never mind the finished product. Just think of the journey it’s made to reach you.
Back to my chocolate cake, I cut off a big slice and took it to our neighbour. He’s a Roman Catholic, a doctor from Bombay working in Scarborough Hospital. His wife and daughter were away on holiday, he was home alone on call, so I wanted to cheer him up. ‘I’ve cooked this to celebrate the Assumption,’ I said to him, as the rain poured, realising how each of us had made the longest journey to enable this moment. A bishop from South Wales, a doctor from Bombay, brought together by Christ, the bread of life, as we are brought together this morning and wonderfully feed on him.
Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.
(c) David Wilbourne 2018