confession: a spiritual mise en place

There are 12 steps to bread making, all of which contribute to the final success of a loaf. Mise en place, mixing, primary fermentation, degassing, weighing, rounding, benching, shaping, proofing, baking, cooling, and eating.

Mise en Place, which means “everything in its place,” is the process of preparing a workspace before baking. Weighing or measuring everything out (and making sure you actually have all of the ingredients you need!), cleaning the counter, organizing tools, reading the recipe through. Mise en place is time set aside at the start to ensure you are prepared so that all of the next 11 steps can flow smoothly. Bread making is a long process from start to finish, so if you as the baker begin frazzled, you might neglect to properly time yourself or plan out your mixing according to a schedule that works for you.

 

In his book Out of the House of Bread, Preston Yancey describes the Christian practice of confession as a form of spiritual mise en place. Through the prayer of confession, he says, we enter God’s presence, confessing individually and communally our brokenness. That we have sinned against God in our thoughts, our words, and our deeds. By what we have done, as well as by what we have left undone. We confess that we cannot love God with our whole hearts. We are incapable. We are dust.

But just as soil and flour do not end at death, neither does our confession end with us wallowing in our own sinfulness, brokenness, and inabilities. Rather our prayer of confession is the necessary first step in receiving God’s absolution. We are but dust, we are finite. We are incapable of redeeming or restoring this broken world, we are incapable even of fixing the sore places in our own lives. But once we acknowledge that we are only dust, we see that God brings us back to life. God restores us, encourages us, equips us, and works through us.

May the God of all mercies cleanse us from our sins, and restore us in God’s image to the praise and glory of God’s name, through Jesus Christ our Lord, we say immediately after the prayer of confession.

O Lord, open our hearts. And our lips shall proclaim your praise.
O Lord, open our hands. For with them we shall proclaim your praise.

 

Our starter might not look like much more than a sloppy paste today. But just as we confess our own inadequacy and feed on God’s promise to work through us, so we feed the starter again trusting that the yeasts in the air and on our hands and bowls and spoons will bring the starter back to life.

As you feed your starter these next three days (1/4 cup of all-purpose flour and 2 tablespoons of water each day), meditate on these words from the prophet Joel:

“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
Rend your heart and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God, for God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and God relents from sending calamity.
Surely God has done great things.
Be not afraid, O land; be glad and rejoice.
Surely the Lord has done great things.
Be not afraid, O wild animals, for the open pastures are becoming green. The trees are bearing fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches.
Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God.”
Joel 2: 12-14, 21-23

Pray the prayer of confession, your spiritual mise en place. Remember that you are but flour, and flour teaches us that brokenness and death are not the end. Through the prayer of confession, we are transformed individually and communally, so that God can work through us to love and serve and feed the world.

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed. By what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart, we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Amen.

May the God of all mercies cleanse us from our sins, and restore us in God’s image to the praise and glory of God’s name, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

O Lord, open our hearts. And our lips shall proclaim your praise.
O Lord, open our hands. For with them we shall proclaim your praise.