Onion Soup and Ash Wednesday

Last week we had small group at our house and our theme (thank you to my lovely wife for thinking of themes, by the way) was French. Our theme doesn’t have anything to do with the study, but everything to do with the food. So we made a big cheese platter and French Onion Soup.

For those of you who are interested in the recipe, here it is:

3 medium sized onions, julienned and sweated in 2 Tablespoons butter

1/8 tsp dried thyme

1 bay leaf

1 qt beef stock or broth (I just buy it in a carton–don’t use bouillon or base, it will likely be too salty)

1/2 Apple

dash salt and pepper

stale bread for croutons or simply browned in a broiler

1 cup cheese grated (mixture of swiss and parmesan–last week I found a wonderful mixture of gruyere, edam, and parmesan…the funkier the better, in my opinion)

Cooking instructions:

Sweat the onions in the butter, add herbs. Once the onions are sweated to the point of being translucent, add an apple cut in half and the broth/stock, salt and pepper. Simmer on low until ready to serve. Taste the broth, adjust seasoning if needed, remove apple. Ladle into bowls, top with bread and cheese, broil until cheese is bubbly ( and I like mine to be brown, but do what you want–you always do anyway :), just an inside joke there for Courtney).

So, I was reflecting on just how simple and amazing this soup is. I love onion soup, even without the cheese and bread (Swiss Onion soup, btw, thanks to G. Michael Porterfield for that), but it’s amazingly simple. Three basic ingredients: onions, broth, and seasoning. The trick is technique and patience–really no trick at all, just mundane perseverance, in that way, it’s like the Christian life.

We’re called to mundane perseverance, not that God is mundane, but our faith and growing our faith can feel mundane. And God planned it that way. We’re given three basic ingredients: the Word, Prayer, and the Sacraments. We call those the ordinary means of grace, and each of these is most effectual in the act of corporate worship. In the case of the sacraments they can only be true sacraments in corporate worship–no home baptisms or communion, that’s not how God ordained them.

My point is this, our faith doesn’t come with any “tricks” that make it easier and better. God gave us the ordinary means of grace to strengthen us and make us grow. We should commit ourselves and re-commit ourselves to these means of grace on a daily basis. This is how God ordained our faith to behave and be strengthened, and it’s very mundane. At the same time, it’s also extraordinary! The Bible is God’s inerrant and inspired word to his people. Prayer is our channel of communicating to the sovereign creator and sustainer of all things. Sacraments are God’s physical gospel signs that he gives to his people for strengthening our faith spiritually by physical elements. When we consider the ordinary means rightly, there’s nothing mundane about them.

But we feel like they are. And we try to add to them all the time, like this last week when Christians everywhere put ash crosses on their foreheads. Ash Wednesday is just another example of us adding symbols to God’s worship, and trying to shortcut the true growth of faith by God’s revealed methods. The more we add to God’s worship according to our inclinations, the more we water down the means he has given us, and the more prone we are to look for shortcuts. Growing your faith can’t happen with shortcuts of your own device–you’re going to need to sweat those onions and simmer the broth, and season it just right. It takes patience, perseverance, commitment, and daily recommitment to grow your faith.

By the way, adding a 1/4 cup of sherry at the end makes everything better! (especially French Onion Soup)