I guess you could say I like to stir things up.
That thought occurred to me this morning, as I wrestled with the reality that – due to a family commitment – I was going to miss the apple butter cooking at our parish for the first time in about ten or twelve years.
Truth be told, my contributions to the deeply-involved two-day process have always been rather minimal. I show up right after 8:30 Mass…on what’s typically a beautifully crisp Saturday morning in autumn…and stir the contents of the kettle over an open fire for a couple of hours.
By the time I get involved, dozens of other parishioners have already been toiling away since Friday morning – peeling and cutting apples…mushing it into applesauce… preparing the spice mixes…sanitizing the Mason jars…not to mention the hardy handful of brave souls who rise well before dawn on Saturday to stoke the fires and load up the kettles.
That’s part of the reason I love apple butter cooking, I think: Because it does require a community effort…and there are ways for anybody to contribute, even in an admittedly low-skill position like pot-stirrer.
It’s cool to contemplate, too, how we’ve been doing it this way at St. Joe’s for 79 years now – preparing for the big annual parish festival, our Sausage Supper on the second Sunday in October. (Y’all come…we’d love to see you on October 12!)
Apple butter cooking is a venerable tradition in the best sense of the word, an activity that bridges generations in our parish family and creates holy memories. (My favorite: A few years back, I asked one of our Golden Rulers how many Sausage Suppers she’d been involved with in total, and she replied “All of them.” She’d grown up at St. Joe’s…and actually did help out at the inaugural event as a young girl under her parents’ guiding hands in 1935. And sure enough, I saw Dee there again today – supervising the jarring operations. 79 years and counting!)
Alas, duty calls me away from participating in the tradition this year (although I did stop by long enough to snap a few photos.) And in its absence, I’ve had a chance to reflect on the wisdom we’ve been hearing in the readings from Ecclesiastes the past couple of days: There is, indeed, a time for everything, but we’d best not take anything for granted.
Before the silver cord is snapped
And the golden bowl is broken
And the pitcher is shattered at the spring
And the broken pulley falls into the well
And the dust returns to the earth as it once was
And the life breath returns to God who gave it.
The sweet smell of apple butter cooking – like every good thing in our lives – ought to remind us, ultimately, of God’s providence. It’s best to savor these things (while we can) as an invitation to gratitude and praise toward the One from whom they emanate.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.