I'm a criminal. Guilty, plain and simple. I didn't know it until this week, but ignorance of the law is no excuse (so they tell me). In fact, I broke the law not even 48 hours ago. My weapon of choice? Banana nut bread.
It seems that back in 2001, the Indiana Legislature passed a law to require restaurants to use only "certified food handlers" which to me sounds like a bottom dollar circus act. But certified food handlers are those certified by the state to handle food meant for public consumption. Still sounds silly, huh? Well the idea is to make sure the food served in restaurants is not a public health hazard. Which, I guess, is good. Somebody running the french-fryer at Burger King should know when the things are done. The guy broiling my pork chops at the local greasy spoon should realize that pork shouldn't be served rare. I'm OK with that idea. But it seems the author of the law forgot to exclude churches and non-profit organizations, and nobody else caught it either -- until last week. Since our church is within Indiana's borders, this law, which took effect in January, has made me an outlaw; an attender and organizer of Pirate Potlucks.
Naturally, the Legislature is scrambling to amend the law to keep us church folk with green been casserole stuck between our teeth out of the pokey. I'm quite grateful. I get the image of the next church dinner being held speakeasy-style, with a secret knock and password to gain entrance, and two people stationed at the windows ready to warn the congregation in case of a raid. If I'm going to the slammer I'd rather be standing for my faith instead of for homemade chocolate cake. But I'll admit it's a close decision sometimes.
Most churches I have been a part of have an underlying and unspoken "food culture." The church I attended while growing up always had a breakfast for Easter Sunday consisting solely of . . . pie. Yes, a pie breakfast! Betty Crocker could have been our church mascot. The other congregations I have been a part of have thrived on potlucks and homemade goodies as well. The church I currently serve is certainly addicted to food. I tell other pastors that we don't even have a board meeting without bringing food. They snicker, not realizing that I'm not lying. The aforementioned banana nut bread was from our board meeting Sunday night. It was so good I almost finished the loaf! We actually had a family decide to attend another church because the husband had weight problems and couldn't trust himself around us. I'm hoping they aren't attending my old "Pie Breakfast" church.
Now don't misunderstand. There is no concession stand on Sunday morning, but food is a part of fellowship at most churches. It's easier to get to know someone over a sweet roll and coffee than simply standing around asking awkward questions. But is it the right message for a church to send?
I was reading this week where a Christian author compared homosexuality and gluttony. He made the argument that both were sins, but fat men weren't kept out of the pastorate like homosexuals were. Of course he has a point to a degree. Gluttony is a sin, but eating is something we have to do to survive. The sin comes in our desire for food coming before our desire for God, and in not taking care of the body we have been given. Homosexuality is not something we are called to do in moderation. Hence the difference in my book, as far as ministry is concerned. Still, food can become an idol just like anything else we devote ourselves to. And I know that I'm not taking care of my body like it was a precious gift from God. So again I'm guilty.
The law should be amended in the next week or so, but tomorrow night when we dish out the snacks for the youth group we'll be rebels and renegades. We will be thumbing our collective noses at the law and licking our collective fingers. But I want to make sure that I'm taking better care of what God has given me. Lord, help me through the next board meeting!