‘He’s the pastor. He has to eat the liver sandwich’

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A number of years ago I served as the pastor of a church whose men’s group met monthly for breakfast. An experiment was tried that was intentioned to bring variety to the breakfast menu. Each man would take a turn at providing breakfast and he could prepare whatever he wished. It worked out well.

One of the men was a native from what I call, “The Islands,” meaning that collection of island states in the Caribbean. One Saturday morning, he prepared a traditional dish from his homeland. The main portion was a delicious and tender offering of calves’ liver in a savory gravy and a sweet bread that reminded me of Hawaiian bread. I enjoy liver in most of its forms and I thought this was especially tasty. Not all agreed.

Our youth had begun a weekend lock-in the night before so I decided to go check on them. I put my allotment of liver between two slices of the bread and headed down the hall. I encountered the kids who were waiting for the men to clear out so they could go fix their own breakfasts. One of the girls spied my sandwich and said, “Ewe, what is THAT?” I said, “A liver sandwich.” One of the teen boys said, “Why are you eating a liver sandwich?” One of the youth leaders, a woman, said, “He’s the pastor. He HAS to eat the liver sandwich.

It’s true. Pastors are often called upon to do things they’d never do except the job requires it. Once, as a youth pastor, I participated in a dance wearing a woman’s tutu, a gray shirt with a smiley face on it, combat boots, and a woman’s wig. Once I sat in a “dunk machine” so that parishioners could buy a ticket, throw a softball, and try to hit the target that would drop me into the cold, dirty water of the tank.

Once, a church I served, decided to roast me. Not literally, of course. I was a bit apprehensive about what would be said because not all roasts are nice events, For the most part, it was all good fun. That is, until one man who had a problem with me—and had never discussed it to my face—wrote a poem that pretty much was designed to help him vent his anger. That was also the night the kids choir sang a song whose repeated chorus included the words, “Because he’s so fat!”

I do not normally eat foods that are overly spicy (as in, HOT!) nor do I enjoy the taste of items that have been prepared with vinegar. But, at church fellowships, I will eat at least a little bit because I have learned through the years that people—especially those who cook—keep an eye on me to make sure that I have sampled their culinary offerings.

I have eaten foods in Africa that I neither speculated about nor asked what was placed before me. Just eat the food, I told myself. Sometimes it’s better to just enjoy the taste and not ask so many questions.  I did, however, draw the line at eating balut in the Philippines. The idea of eating a partially developed chicken embryo still in the egg shell that hasn’t been cooked until 14-21 days after development was a bridge too far.

Here’s a tip to new or young clergy. Do not—I repeat, do not—ever allow yourself to be talked into being a judge at a chili cook-off, a pie tasting contest, a cake buffet, or at any other food competition. You will make one person very happy and the others will wish they had poisoned you for not choosing their handiwork.

Here’s another piece of advice from this aged Paul to all the young Timothys: If invited to a home for a meal, or in attendance at a church fellowship dinner, eat a small amount of everything. Don’t load up on four chicken thighs and a pound of potato salad to go with the three ears of corn on the cob, with a half pound of butter on the side. For one thing, you will look like a glutton and, for another, every other cook will see that you ignored their food.

Truthfully, unless it has a gob of vinegar in it or it scalds the taste buds off my tongue, I have found church food to be delicious. I have also learned that the country is still full of people who can cook. But, sometimes, I eat the food made with vinegar and I sample the hot, spicy stuff. After all, I’m the pastor. I have to eat the liver sandwich.”

David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). During the crisis, the church is live streaming at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays at http://www.facebook.com/cctksharpsburg/ He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South He may contacted at davidepps@ctk.life.