Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Closer than Julia

. . . because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them (Acts 18: 3).

Over the weekend my wife and I, child-free on a Friday night and celebrating our thirteenth wedding anniversary, went to see Julie and Julia. This is probably where I ought to tell you how I really had no interest in a “chic-flick” about cooking, but being the great husband that I am I made a chivalrous concession to my wife’s choice of films. I could tell you that – but I’d be a liar. She suggested the movie but I was more than willing to see it and it did not disappoint.

Perhaps a brief synopsis would be helpful: The movie tells the true story of Julie Powell (Amy Adams), a would-be writer stuck in mind numbing government job. Powell gets the idea to cook her way through Julia Child’s magnum opus, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Along the way she blogs the entire experience. The challenge she sets for herself is to successfully execute all 536 recipes in 365 days. Powell’s story is skillfully blended with Julia Child’s story, portrayed with characteristic brilliance by Meryl Streep.

I like to think that Julie Powell had a kind of “daily devotional” for people who cook. That might be a stretch, but whatever it was it launched her writing career, and that part of the story interests me more than the cooking.

And this part was especially interesting: As Powell immerses herself in Julia Child’s world of cooking she begins to speak of Child as a living presence. When Powell is cooking she senses that somehow Julia Child is right there with her, in the kitchen, watching over her every move. Something spiritual was happening in the act of cooking.

Now, change the scene and change the story. Substitute your own kitchen or office or classroom or sales territory – wherever you spend the most ordinary hours of your most ordinary days. If Julie Powell sensed the presence of the master chef, shouldn’t we expect to the sense the presence of the Master?

Somehow – and I’m not sure how it happened – Jesus got sent to his room, grounded in the space beneath the steeple for six days of every week. This means that we speak of Jesus’ presence in church, but then go through the week without the slightest notion that Jesus is interested, much less involved, in the work we’re doing.

Jesus is present as depositions are being taken and motions filed. Jesus stands next to surgeons and sits bedside bus drivers. Jesus is behind the counter at Starbucks and has his head under the hood at Jiffy Lube. Whenever and wherever followers of Jesus go to work, Jesus is there.

Paul was a tentmaker. Acts 18 tells us that while in Corinth he did his theological work on the Sabbath when he “reasoned in the synagogue” (Acts 18:2-3). But during the week he worked in a tent-making partnership with Aquila and Priscilla – and you just have to know that in his tent-making Paul sensed that Jesus was present. The Master didn’t just hang out at the synagogue.

And one more thing. Julie Powell never met Julia Child. She wanted to meet her, dreamed of what it would be like, but it never happened. But Jesus knows you, knows every detail of your life and the number of hairs on your head. Jesus is closer to you than Julia ever was to Julie – and he delights in the work you do every day.

How will you attend to the presence of Jesus as you go through this day?

Gracious God, we give you thanks for your presence with us in all places and your careful attention to every aspect of our lives. You’re eyes are on us even when we are distracted. You hear our words, even when we don’t offer them as formal prayers. We would be attentive to you in all that this day brings to us, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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