31st July 2022

Practicing Christ in the kitchen

In the summer of 1642, a young disabled veteran named Nicolas Herman took vows to join a religious community in Paris. He described himself as a “great awkward fellow who broke everything,” and was acutely aware of his humble, flawed stature.

He took the religious title Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, or Brother Lawrence as he’s widely known. He joined the monastery and was given a task to perform, and he did what he was asked. But he was soon seen to be a man of wisdom and he became sought by many visitors for spiritual counsel. Over time, even famous thinkers and powerful church leaders came to listen to him.

But they had to go to the kitchen to find him. Brother Lawrence washed the dishes.

This giant in the spiritual wisdom tradition, this sought-after guide in faith, was the cook who spent his days in the kitchen steam, among the pots and pans. And that was the key, he practiced the presence of Christ there in the smallest of tasks. Every plate he washed, every dish he prepared, he did so as if Jesus were right there with him.

One of his most famous quotes describes this:

“The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clutter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.”

Brother Lawrence washed dishes until his health no longer allowed it and then he became a sandal-maker. And that was his life; though he was one of the wisest of men at that time, he never left the kitchen or the workbench. Shortly after he died his letters were compiled into the enduring classic Practicing the Presence of Christ, and it’s been read and reread by millions of people.

Brother Lawrence’s story reminds us that God works through people we might never expect. And it helps us see how God uses every part of the body. As Paul wrote:

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.

1 Corinthians 12:12-14 (ESV)

The body of Christ—interconnected, mutually supportive—needs every part to be whole. If this back kitchen cook had been ignored because of his humble position, we would have missed out on his message and edification for the whole body.

Brother Lawrence, like so many forgotten, “insignificant” people, turned out to be a light that shines through the centuries. May we continue to shine the light of Christ in whatever we are called or asked to do. 

Presented by Greg Williams


About the presenter:
Greg Williams is President of Grace Communion International and lives in North Carolina, USA. Word of Life each Sunday is taken from ‘Speaking of Life’, (https://www.gci.org/videos/media-speaking-of-life/), a public resource video on the USA website of Grace Communion International

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