My church recently hired a venue to start a new church plant. Last Friday as I stood in the kitchen unpacking and washing second-hand mugs before drying them and putting them in their new home, I felt joy at being in a shared kitchen completely free of Kitchen Law.
I may not have noticed this so much if it hadn’t been for a specific moment at work a few weeks before. In that moment I realised that our work kitchen was full of Kitchen Law. As a staff member who moved from the old building to the new almost seven years ago, I remember the day I walked into a brand new work kitchen. There were mugs and a microwave but no signs or posters or labels. We had just the basics to make a coffee or eat lunch.
It was only a few weeks before some thoughtful person added a label to the dishwasher so you could signal if it was clean or dirty. Then another kind person labelled the cupboards so you could find a clean glass without opening all the cupboards to search. The next nice person added a reminder to the fridge door to please label your food. Of course we now needed a roster to tell us who was supposed to clean the kitchen when. After that a poster went up to tell those on kitchen duty exactly which tasks they were supposed to do and when. Then there was the poster HR added about well-being and signs for fundraising chocolates. Signs, notices, posters, Kitchen Laws everywhere! And finally I walk in to see that all too frequent Kitchen Curse:
It was a black day indeed for Kitchen Grace. Finally Kitchen Law had won the battle. Kitchen Grace, with random acts of kindness and opportunity to serve laid aside for rosters and duties and “it’s not my job” attitudes. Division and legalism had gone nuts with the controlling influence of Kitchen Law!
Often times we can look down our noses at the Pharisees for added so many laws to everyday life, and like Jesus said, making the impossibility of keeping all the laws a burden on the people. Yet it only takes a walk into my work kitchen to see that we are creatures with an instinctive lean towards legalism and law. Our carnal selves default into building boundaries and rules that become burdens or temptations to rebel.
Jesus came to free us from all of that, even in communal Kitchens. He came to give us grace, to inspire us to love and serve. To put others first and wash each other’s feet, and mugs and dirty dishes.
Kitchen Grace inspires us to clean up not only after ourselves but also after others. It makes washing the dishes while others actively avoid helping an act of love and not a discontent duty or prideful trophy. It makes staying behind to sweep the floor a service to God not service to man. It makes forgiving that same person who always leaves their dishes unwashed in the sick, a given and not a conviction. It means taking the dirty tea towels home to wash my responsibility, because I’m there and I see the need, not because it comes with my role or rank. It means cleaning out the fridge regularly and throwing out the old and mouldy my privilege as I serve the church and Christ himself.
Kitchen Grace means that I do the tasks that need doing with love, and you do them, and everyone does them. Not because we must, but because we can. Because it’s a simple, easy way to show love and grace to others and gratefulness to Christ Jesus for the immeasurable grace He showers on us.
Back in this old kitchen, now washing second-hand or maybe third hand teaspoons, I pray that this next kitchen where I expect to spend hundreds of hours serving, will be filled with Kitchen Grace and not Kitchen Law.
Maybe I need to put up a poster telling people the rules about Kitchen Grace… or not.
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