Devotion for October 24, 2022

“No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wine skins.” Mark 2:22

It doesn’t do well to cry over spilled milk, but what about overturned cheese?  More specifically, how are you supposed to react when 360,000 wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano are damaged in an earthquake?  When the livelihood and wellness of your neighbors spoils at the same rate as the cheese on the warehouse floor, what does hope look like?

When Michelin Star chef Massimo Bottura was approached by his neighbors with this challenge following the 2012 earthquake that shook Modena, Italy, hope meant innovation.  Chef Bottura shook off the constraints of traditional Italian cuisine and created a new recipe with Parmigiano-Reggiano as the signature ingredient: Risotto Cacio e Pepe.  As chefs and cooks around the world took him up on his offer to prepare and riff on this new dish, all 360,000 wheels were sold before they had the chance to spoil.

“No one lost a job.  No cheesemaker closed their doors.  That was a recipe as a social gesture,” Chef Bottura recounts on Netflix’s Chef’s Table.

I have doubts that any of us will ever have to convince the world to buy $200 million dollars worth of cheese, but parts of Chef Bottura’s story seem all too familiar.  We don’t walk into crumbled warehouses and question how to use up good parmesan before no one wants it anymore.  Instead, we often walk with communities and congregations that have been shaken by scandal, hypocrisy, and tragedy and question what to do with a good calling in a bad situation.

How do we practice hope when we know God has given us something good to share with our neighbors, but our ways of living into that calling feel increasingly insufficient?  How do we make sure that the new wine we have for our community is limited or put at risk by the weaknesses that have shown up in our old ways of ministry?

If May 20, 2012 was Chef Bottura’s moment, perhaps this can be ours.  What would it look like for us to imagine a new recipe for how we lead and serve in the communities God has called us to love?  How might we highlight the goodness of which we have a surplus, even if it means challenging our traditions?  Who can we invite to be part of these movements to ensure that every ounce of God’s goodness is experienced and not one bit is left on our sanctuary floors to spoil?

Maybe today we can take hope that, just because our vessels for housing this call may be damaged, the call itself is still sacred and good.  Then we can find renewed excitement in imagining a new way to share that call with the world around us in more inclusive, collaborative, and redemptive ways.