Dessert, Grace, Sunday at The Training Shed
A bully of a weekend, despite having to miss the mildly-attractive Laneway Music Festival line-up. Time was fairly spent, though results not quite as hoped (and some just short of being complete disasters).
A prayer meeting (at least i made it for the prayer part and not the earlier frivolous chatter bit) and some cider, the first AGM of a newly-minted society, then hacking dessert for dinner:
Can’t remember how I made the last dessert (which could have been euphemistically termed “banoffee pie” but people were too honest for that). Setting out POI below in hope of boosting future efficiency:
Digestive biscuit crust: buy 1kg bag of broken digestive biscuits from Phoon Huat, vent frustration on bag. Melt butter. mix melted butter with enough biscuit crumbles so resulting mixture feels like damp sand.
Dulce de leche: use condensed milk not evaporated milk. Method of boiling whole can in water for 3 hours is superior to water bath method in terms of achieving caramel taste. But for utter unctuousness, the marriage of good butter and sugar for caramel is superior to all else.
Chocolate layer: to maintain stability at room temperature in Singapore, do not mix melted chocolate with butter which decreases melting point. The Valrhona 66% Caraïbe wasn’t quite bitter enough for my taste, but dark enough for the kids.
Everyone was polite enough to commend the mess and the kids apparently even whooped. In any case, had standby dessert in the form of macarons from the best commercial baker of such treats in Singapore: ET Artisan (facebook) – not Pierre Herme or Ladurée, but the macaron shells were very well-done.
The next day, we were on to the sixth session of Christianity Explored, which has proven to take quite a systematic approach to things.
So far, people had been asking why they should bother with Christianity, which is reasonable. Now, they had to consider what their own answers would be if God asked them why he should let them into heaven (synonymous with: give them eternal life, save them from coming judgement). Most people might say:
- I’m generally a good person,
- I don’t steal large sums of money,
- I give to charity,
- I work to make sure that the poor, old, disabled, disadvantaged are taken care of,
- I don’t eat shark’s fin or foie gras and I contribute to animal welfare organisations,
- I’m a spiritual person,
- I give up my seat in MRT trains to those who need it more,
- I’ve been baptised, I go to church, I take communion,
- I’m not a murderer,
- I don’t commit adultery with IT execs trying to get contracts in my organisation,
- I read the Bible,
- I’m not a rapist,
- I don’t visit prostitutes,
- I pay it forward,
- I’ve been nice to people and lived life the best I know how.
In Mark 10:17-22, Jesus meets a rich man who has been even better than most of us can claim to have been. The man falls on his knees before Jesus and says,”Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”.
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good – except God alone.” Jesus wasn’t discounting his own goodness or deity; he was challenging the man’s concept of what it meant to be good.
So, Jesus said, the man should already know what he had to do – it’s no different from God had told the Israelites hundreds of years ago – to enter heaven, the man had to keep all the commandments (embodied in general in the ten commandments given to Moses on top of Mount Sinai after God saved the enslaved Israelites out from Egypt).
“Teacher,” the rich man declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Although the man would have been said to be a good son who honoured his father and mother, a good employer who did not begrudge his servants their wages, a good business partner who did not lie or steal, a good husband who did not commit adultery, a good member of society who did not covet his neighbour’s things and act to get them, he actually failed to keep the first commandment: to have no other gods before God (Exodus 20:3). And as we’d already understood from previous session, the greatest commandment is “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:29-30). But money was actually the rich man’s god, which is why he could not give up his wealth.
The disciples were shocked that even this “good” man could do what was expected of him, and so wouldn’t be able to get to heaven. If even he couldn’t have eternal life, then who could?! Jesus affirms their conclusion: “with man this is impossible”.
This is consistent with what we have seen so far: it is not anything outside ourselves that corrupts us and makes us evil, as if babies start off (as someone at the session termed it) tabula rasa and are then polluted by the world; rather it is our heart that is inclined to evil all the time. As Jesus said:
“For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’” (Mark 7:21-23).
Because our hearts (and minds and souls) refuse to love the Lord our God, it is impossible for us ever to enter heaven, no matter how relatively good (better than others) we think we are.
But (and this is a great “but” in bold capital letters in dancing lights) what is impossible for man is possible for God:
1. This is exactly why Jesus had to die – to pay for our sins that we ourselves could never pay for, even if we killed ourselves. If we could somehow save ourselves from God’s wrath on us because we sinned against him, Jesus wouldn’t have had to die.
2. The only way to be saved then (and to enter the kingdom of God, to get to heaven) is by just accepting and trusting that Jesus’ death paid for our sins. This is what it means to “receive the kingdom of God like a little child” (Mark 10:15) – not that we are to have regress to some sort of feigned innocence, nor to switch off our minds and pull on blind faith, nor “take a leap of faith” into the dark; rather, it is merely to trust, from the evidence we have seen so far in the Gospel of Mark that no matter how bad we’ve been, God, by his grace (undeserved favour) has ordered it such that all sins will have been paid by Jesus. There is nothing left to do (or can anything be done in any case).
This is what’s so good about the good news (that is, the gospel): it is impossibly valuable and life-saving and it is free!
After such a full weekend, we’d schemed some chillaxing at Labrador Park.
At Sunday at The Training Shed (8 Port Road, Labrador Park), there was dancing with beer bottles in hand, graffiti and watching paint dry, burgers on the grill and satay, and fun for all (including babies and dogs). But it got too hot and muggy from the recent rain, and, despite the promise of good beats, not wanting to quench thirst with just Heineken and Tiger, sweatily decamped to Chinatown Complex for eats and good cold ‘uns from The Good Beer Company (facebook, #02-58 Chinatown Complex, Smith Street).