In a recently-published conversation, one church leader said to another, “I think food science has something to teach us about faith.” Wait a minute… food and faith? And not the food we share at pot luck dinners? Not the bread and juice we pass during communion? Food science? Yes, this leader is referring to fermentation. While it sounds kinds of icky and gross, the process of fermentation can make a big difference as ingredients are brought together to create something nutritious and delicious. And yes, it’s a process. And yes, the chemistry changes things.
This leader’s comments are not especially comfortable. But they are hopeful. Actually, that’s her point. She enjoys a national perspective on the denomination and she offers, “there are so many signs of life… churches doing amazing things, being faithful to God’s call and making wise decisions. There’s always hope, and that’s a good thing.” But her conversation partner, another national church leader, countered: for congregations struggling to keep the doors open and the lights on, “Where is hope?” Her response? In honest grief and raw questioning. In the icky, messy process of fermentation as the chemistry of change transforms whatever is brought together. And whomever is gathered together.
She’s no Pollyanna. This church leader goes on to say, “Not having answers can be exhausting.” But what is important is “sitting with our discomfort and listening.” It’s true for families coping with trauma and loss. It’s helpful in agencies and organizations and certainly in churches too. Seeing the fermentation in the struggle. Sensing the nourishing hope that will come through the process of transformation. Icky perhaps. Messy yes. But also remembering, as she suggests, “God is still active. God will continue to call us and renew us.” These words have the scent of fresh rising bread, do they not? Perhaps instead of “Amen!” our response could be: “Yum!”