My husband has just recently become a backyard smoker enthusiast. He was already a grill master, but now he’s moved into the exciting world of smoked meats. This was met with great joy on my part since I am a Southerner and consider BBQ to be one of the major food groups. Having already broken cooking on a smoker down to the most elemental parts with great precision and scientific detail, he produced a smoked pork shoulder this past weekend that rivaled any I have ever before tasted.
As I stood in my kitchen pulling the pork to make BBQ, I was suddenly surprised to realize how close I was to my priestly roots in scripture. Being a priest in the Temple system entailed more than fabulously ornate clothes, knowledge of ritual, and social prestige, it was about being a butcher who over saw the animal sacrifices and took home a portion of each animal to feed his family as his salary. As a modern decendant of that priesthood, I too preside during worship and care for God’s people, but offering sacrifices has not been part of our pastoral image for a long time. Certainly we offer the prayer and blessing for our tithes and offerings, and we have sacramental authority over Holy Communion, but it’s not the same as the Temple priest draining the life blood from the lamb and dashing it on the altar.
(Image courtesy of gallery.oldbookart.com)
When I looked down at the choice meat on my counter with the smell of the smoker wafting through my window, I suddenly felt more akin to the priestly lines of Aaron and Zadok. I imagined that time when they too had smoked meat to feed their families obtained through their service to God. While this meat was purchased with my salary, it was the fruits of my labor in ministry. God had seen fit to provide me with a church and a people to shepherd and, while I was not paid with grain or animal offering, I do receive money for my work to care and provide for my family. In certain rural areas even up to more recent times, clergy received food from their parish because they were in agricultural areas that produced livestock, grains, and produce. The give and take between clergy and laity has been a long tradition in the Church. The pastor uses their God given gifts and talents to lead and care for the people who, in turn, use their abilities and resources to care for the one who cares for them. Thus pastors could continue to focus on the ministry instead of having to get another job to make a living.
I also thought of a BBQ that changed the world:
“Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the LORD smelled the pleasing odor, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease’ ” (Genesis 8:20-22 NRS).
Noah, having just survived the destruction of the world by flood, emerges from the ark and immediately makes an altar to present an offering to God. When the smoke from the offerings reached God, it smelled so good, was so pleasing, that God decided right then and there that there was something about humanity to believe in and cherish despite the evil inclination in our hearts. To convey to Noah what impact his offering had upon God, God then makes a covenant with all life, human and animal alike, so that never again will God destroy the Earth in a flood. And, it all began with the smell of BBQ smoking…