The Cake Mix Bible (a parable)

Among Melanie’s recipe books is “The Cake Mix Bible.”  Glancing through it got me to thinking …

Word of the Cake Mix Bible began to circulate and cake lovers everywhere purchased copies the CMB.  They arranged regular meetings to discuss this comprehensive guide to making delicious cakes and how to creatively shape and decorate them. The CMB began with basic information and instructions such as:

* How to properly measure dry and liquid ingredients; how to prearrange ingredients so they are ready to be added; etc.

* Which baking pans are most suitable for various cakes (i.e., bundt pans, jelly-roll pans, loaf pans, springform pans, etc.).

* Baking tips such as how to arrange oven racks; where to place the pans in the oven; how not to burn the cake; etc.

Though most quickly learned this basic information, it was wonderfully reassuring to review these first principles of baking over and over again.

But the Cake Mix Bible Club (CMBC) never baked a cake.

Talking about baking cakes excited everyone, so club members bought specialty pans, decorating tools, cooling racks, Kitchen Aid mixers, and some even up-graded to industrial-sized ovens.  They stocked up on various brands and flavors of cake mixes (since the CMB recipes used boxed mixes); they bought icing, sprinkles, decorating bags with specialty tips, chocolate graters, double boilers, etc.  They had everything they needed to bake any cake imaginable.

But the CMBC never baked a cake.

In their weekly meetings the CMBC would revel in their love for cakes.    They would turn to the CMB and salivate over the glossy pictures of the finished products:  the theme cakes (“Is that a real cake?!”); the garnishes of glistening cherries, juicy pineapples, coconut shavings, toasted pecans and lemon peels; the confectionary artistry.  They spoke reverently of presentation.  Some clearly thought a cake’s appearance was more important than how it tasted, but others stressed quality ingredients and taste.  The CMBC also spoke of the joy they felt in baking cakes for others.

But the CMBC never baked a cake.

Some of the discussions of the CMBC were very technical.  Members would often analyze particular recipes in great detail.  For example, in making the Fun Fort Cake, they talked about using pirouette cookies to mimic the logs of the fort and adding toy soldiers to heighten realism.  During the discussion one cautious baker stressed the recipe’s warning:  “Remove inedible objects before serving.”  He was concerned that someone might swallow the paper American flag on the fort.  Others suggested that non-edible decorations ought not to be used at all for fear of a lawsuit against the CMBC.  Of course, the lactose-intolerant members were always suggesting substitutes for butter, sour cream, cream cheese and all the other dairy ingredients that make cakes really delicious.

But the CMBC never baked a cake.

Over the course of time the CMB fell into gradual disuse because no cakes were actually being baked.  The old timers in the CMBC reminisced about the wonderful scratch-made cakes of the past, the blue ribbons won at the county fair and the lavish wedding cakes that were the talk of the town.  Eventually, younger bakers started fiddling with the recipes and began to actually make cakes, but lacking experience and baking wisdom their cakes often sank, burned and tasted like cardboard.  But over time, people who had never read the CMB became accustomed to these inferior cakes because they didn’t know how a properly made cake actually tasted.

Moral:  If we never make cakes, maybe we don’t love them as much as we say we do.

Human parables often overstate the case, so forgive the hyperbole of the above metaphor.  But in his closing remarks last Sunday evening Brent challenged us to consider whether we follow through on our worship and studies to actually practice the principles we espouse.  Truly, it is much easier to talk about our moral and spiritual duties than to act on them. 

This is a real danger for Christians:  God’s ideals are so lofty and perfect, especially in comparison with manmade pseudo-theology, that good people can esteem them even while avoiding the rigor they impose.  And it is rigor, indeed, to bring our sinful impulses under the control of the Spirit, to serve the unpleasant and ungrateful, to speak with grace and love, to develop and utilize our teaching skills, to toil unrecognized, to force ourselves out of our comfort zone and take on new challenges.  If it was easy, more people would rise above selfishness and evil and act decently.

Jesus did say, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Mt 11:30), but this was not an invitation to leisure.  Rather, it was a call to labor with the promise that such effort is so refreshing to the soul.  Restful work:  What a sublime oxymoron.  So, how are those cakes turning out?