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Reflections on the Hot-n-Ready

I spent several years after college traveling the country while living in a Honda Accord. I learned many lessons about living on a shoestring for which I remain thankful. Several unhealthy strategies, however, continue to plague me. It started in Cincinnati, one of my frequent respites from long stretches on the road. A friend suggested pizza for dinner, but I only had a few bucks to get me through the week. I politely declined on account of low funds. “Dude, let’s just grab a hot-n-ready. They’re only five bucks.” He went on to explain that Little Caesar’s made America a promise to always have a pizza that was—wait for it—hot and ready for the meager price of five dollars. I was hooked.

Fast forward to the present, with a steady income and a growing family, you might think I have moved on from such low dollar temptations. Here’s the problem: after my day at work and my wife wrangling two toddlers, all of the food in our house just looks like ingredients. Into our fatigue, Almighty Caesar offers us his five dollar temptation and we often succumb. The first bite of a Hot-n-Ready is always delicious promise-fulfillment. It’s gooey cheesy glory. By the end of the second slice, though, your body begins a ten hour rebellion against the processed meat and dairy.

Invariably, one wakes up the next morning with a fine sheen of fake-cheese-sweats that have secreted through one’s pores in the night. Despite the horrific consequences of a hot-n-ready diet, it usually only takes a day or two for the allure to return and the cycle of temptation to begin all over again.

The more I reflect on this pattern, the more I see the plague of a Hot-n-Ready lifestyle throughout our culture and churches. We live in an on-demand society and have very little patience for anything slow. Prayers given on Monday better be answered in 2-3 business days or our faith flounders. My problem better be fixed by the end of the second counseling session. My package from Amazon better be here by tomorrow. On and on it goes and, despite the adverse consequences, no one seems interested in any alternatives.

Nothing good in life, as far as I can tell, is ever hot and ready. Nothing great, nothing enduring, nothing satisfying, is ever cheap and easy. There simply is no hot and ready sexuality, marriage, career, or parenting, and Christianity is certainly not a hot and ready religion. In fact, if you look at the stories of Jesus, you’ll see that our chronic busyness is actually an enemy of the Kingdom of God.

First, in a broad sense, it seems unusual that Jesus answers questions about heaven either with made up stories or invitations to reflect upon creation. When the disciples talk to Jesus about being worried, he doesn’t say, “I’m sovereign. It’s okay.” Rather, he tells them to think about the birds and the flowers in the field by which they are walking. When another asks him what heaven is like, he tells a story of a man who finds buried treasure in a field. These are not the most efficient teaching tools (though Jesus seems to have thought they were the most effective).

Curiously, Jesus often tells stories involving food to help his listeners understand what life with God is all about. He talks about great banquets, feasts that required long preparation and a re-organizing of life’s properties. His first miracle sets the tone for his kingdom-ministry by, in essence, taking a party off of life support. I think Jesus’ obsession with food stems from two realities. First, eating is one of the most fundamental aspects of every single human life. No one is exempt from the need to eat. Second, God is in love with the ordinary and has infused the mundane aspects of human life with deeply theological revelations. This is made crystal clear in the last meal Jesus enjoyed on earth.

We are told that Jesus picked up a loaf of bread and thanked God for it. “Then he broke it in pieces,” we read, “and said, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.’”[1] Jesus knew that it would be hard for them to go even a single day without seeing a piece of bread. It was incredibly ordinary. He radically reframes this mundane meal, though. Now, when they break bread, they are to remember Jesus’ body given for them. The meal continued on from there, and as it was winding down, Jesus had something else to say. He lifts up a glass of wine (another everyday reality for them) and says, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it.”[2]

While the world drinks to forget, Jesus invites his people to drink in order to remember. It is because of this is why you are safely home with God—my blood has been shed for you.

It’s hard to hear God speaking in the ordinary when we try to live hot and ready lives. It’s nearly impossible to experience meals as theological reflections when they have become for us utilitarian inconveniences on our road to maximum productivity. And It’s no wonder many of us struggle to experience union with Christ as nourishing and satisfying when the clearest act of remembrance he has given us—our eating and drinking—most often leaves us with processed cheese sweats.

The stories of Jesus invite us into lives of deliberate slowness where we are awake to the voice of God in the ordinariness of our lives. Birds may become divine doses of Xanax. Storms may become holy invitations into Sabbath rest. A piece of toast may point us to a balm for our guilt and evening wine a wonderful reminder of our peace with God. Hot and ready Christianity will leave us chasing the latest hype and popping pills (whether literally or metaphorically) to deal with the side affects.

Jesus invites all of us into a great feast with him—a slow paced meal requiring intentional preparation but providing drawn out enjoyment. These lessons will likely take our fad-addicted churches a lifetime to learn, but, thanks be to God, Jesus is in no hurry. He provides us with ordinary, daily opportunities to experience the kingdom through slowness; opportunities like learning to make pancakes from scratch, simmering marinara sauce all afternoon, letting a bottle of wine breath for a few hours before pouring the first glass. If we allow ourselves to receive invitations such as these, perhaps we will learn to receive the speed of Christ’s Kingdom. Perhaps we will see more of the often overlooked fruit of the spirit in our lives such as patience and gentleness. Perhaps we will see that the ordinary rhythms of life are not so ordinary after all.

[1] 1 Corinthians 11:24

[2] 1 Corinthians 11:25

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