Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Ghosts of Cows Past and The Omnivorousness of Faith

Marbled Beef
Each forkful of juicy fat steak managed somehow to acquire, between plate and masticating organ, a seasoning of lingering guilt; residue, no doubt, of years of vegetarianism that accompanied adherence to earlier beliefs.

Those beliefs were born of a worldview that theorised that human history was circular, that one's spirituality and actions determined one's reincarnative vehicle. Depending on which text one looked at, non-violence towards animals, not taking the lives of other beings, and not making one's body as the graveyard of dead things would contribute mightily to being at least bipedal in the next life.

While some arguments about reality are interesting and plausible (Colossians 2:4), such philosophies are ultimately deceitful because they do not reflect the actual state of things (Colossians 2:8). How lovely then, the amazing freedom that accompanies truth that is according to Christ - we can no longer be disqualified by our abject imperfection:
For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:9-23)
Jesus is fully God - there isn't any extra bit of deity that isn't seen in Jesus. Jesus' death completely cancelled our record of sins - there isn't any remnant particularly stubborn trespass that he hasn't forgiven. Because Jesus is fully God, he has all authority and power over everything - there isn't any tricky insurgent who can give him the slip.

Because we can only be saved from the consequences of all the wrongs we have done in our lives by trusting in Jesus, so all our well-intentioned attempts to be more spiritual via man-made laws and regulations will fail. There is no other way to be saved.

So with deliberate consciousness, I can celebrate the cows (whether their carcasses were well or badly treated) I've had over the past year:

Wolfgang Puck's Cut, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore Wolfgang Puck's Cut, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Warm cheese puffs, Wolfgang Puck's Cut, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore Breads - Pretzel, Onion, Olive Focaccia. Wolfgang Puck's Cut, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Maple Glazed Pork Belly, Fuji Apple-Persimmon Salad, Spiced Almonds, Sesame–Orange Dressing. Wolfgang Puck's Cut, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore Wild Field Mushrooms. Creamed Spinach with Fried Organic Egg. Wolfgang Puck's Cut, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
American Wagyu / Angus “Kobe Style” Beef From Snake River Farms, Idaho. Wolfgang Puck's Cut, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore Tasting of New York Sirloin, Wolfgang Puck's Cut, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Cinnamon donuts. Wolfgang Puck's Cut, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore Chocolate souffle. Wolfgang Puck's Cut, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Wolfgang Puck's Cut, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore Wolfgang Puck's Cut, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
The real stud by far - the complimentary warm cheese puffs, soft pretzel and onion and olive breads, maple-glazed pork belly appetiser, wild field mushrooms and creamed spinach with organic egg sides, cinnamon donut and chocolate souffle desserts at Wolfgang Puck's Cut (Marina Bay Sands) had nothing on the superb "Kobe-style" wagyu beef from Snake River Farms in Idaho. Even the Australian Angus 300+ days grain-fed and aged 45 days from Rangers Valley and the Japanese Wagyu from Saga Prefecture could not distract from the well-marbled yet un-pansy robust flavour "with long finish". Those Jap breeds were really enjoying themselves in America.

Truffled Mushroom Soup, The Prime Society, Dempsey Wagyu and Yuzu Carpaccio, The Prime Society, Dempsey
Gunpowdered Beef, The Prime Society, Dempsey Berry Soil and Cream, The Prime Society, Dempsey
The excitement of ingesting gunpowder on steak at The Prime Society was not repaid in taste. Dead cow was on the raw side of medium rare, tough to chew through and fairly bland. Perhaps Restaurant Week threw the kitchen off.

L'Entrecôte, Duxton Hill, Singapore Complimentary kir, L'Entrecôte, Duxton Hill, Singapore
Steak Frites, L'Entrecôte, Duxton Hill Profiteroles, L'Entrecôte, Duxton Hill
L'Entrecôte, the one dish only French bistro, came highly recommended. S$29 got you a slim glass of kir royale, chewy baguette slices, walnut salad and steak frites served in halves - with the second half kept warm. The decor and proximity to the neighbouring conversation was charming enough but the medium rare steak though rightly red had a bit of a boiled flavour, the secret cream sauce seemed at odds with the meat, the "must have" lemon tart with strangely damp base might have benefited from tips from Dorie and Pierre, and the uninspired plate of profiteroles led to a thumbs-down vote. Sorry, unidentified cows, je ne sais pas!, perhaps we American kids can't appreciate the continental stuff (though we liked well enough a filet mignon in a French resto by the banks of the Mekong in Phnom Penh).

Steak Frites, Le Bistrot, Singapore Indoor Stadium Steak Frites, Le Bistrot, Singapore Indoor Stadium
The Australian cows fared slightly better at the French-inspired Le Bistrot. Grass-fed tenderloin was rich and loaded with taste but the corn-fed black angus striploin was somewhat non-commital.

Pasture-fed cote de boeuff, 1kg. Graze, Rochester Dessert tasting platter, Graze, Rochester
Just the sight of 1kg of Kiwi pasture-fed cote de boeuf in bone at Graze, Rochester, was enough to fire up the gastric juices. Quantity was the draw though the meat was adequately tasty. Dessert platter looked like someone's half-filled buffet tray, but nothing untoward (or outstanding) taste-wise.

Steak, Pepper Lunch
Ah, good old Pepper Lunch - that sizzling low-cost-outlay expense.

However, not putting confidence in rules and regulations to attain godliness does not mean that we continue in our foul behaviour. Rather, instead of setting out to achieve a righteous Christian life,
(1) we are to look upwards and consider Christ's/our present status and the state of things - we have died with Christ and have been raised with Christ who is seated at the right hand of God, ruling all things. When he comes into the world again, he will be seen in all his glory that is presently hidden from general view, so also will our new life in him, now hidden, be wonderfully seen (Colossians 3:1-4). Since such things are not currently in plain sight, we are to seek them - our minds must be informed by this reality that is not seen - knowing that rebellion against God and his design for the world (eg. sex, ability to communicate) has caused the wrath of God to come upon us (Colossians 3:6), knowing that God has worked powerfully to save us and that we have indeed been saved, knowing that we have died to all rejection of God and his intention for the world etc...

(2) whereas human laws and new year resolutions are weak things with no power to change us, the power of God has in fact transformed us so that we have put off the old self and put on the new self (Colossians 3:9) - all we need to do is to keep on putting to death the old self and its practices and to keep being renewed in the knowledge of what God our creator has made the world to be (Colossians 3:5-10).

Assumedly, the only way of being renewed in such knowledge is to keep saturating our minds in the word of God, through daily bible reading, sermons, bible studies and generally making an effort to think about our visible lives in terms of that which is yet unseen.

Beef primal cuts
"Top choice, Grade A meat" - Glenn Gulia in The Wedding Singer

(3) and so the Bible's teaching on sex can never be out of fashion because it describes the way God has made this gift to men and women. The impurity or the spoiling of sex would lead to wrong lust, then to perverted sexual desire, then to uncontrolled desire for what, superficially, appears to be pleasures, but which were not designed as such. This erroneous self-indulgence is one way in which we worship ourselves (we think we can define what sexual behaviour works best for us) rather than God the Creator.

(4) in the same way, setting our minds on things above also means understanding how God's gift to us of speech and ability to communicate is not to be abused. To quote John Woodhouse in his excellent commentary on Colossians, "speech is not for putting others down, nor for expressing your frustrations and annoyances, nor for lashing out, but for building others up, for expressing kindness, for turning attention away from yourself" (Colossians 3:7). In a world where half-truths and exaggeration are the norm in advertising and everyday communication, we are to be as disgusted by sins of the mouth as we are by sexual sins.

(5) and if our minds are set on the things of Christ, then the constituents of the church are not to lie to one another (Colossians 3:8-10) - we must not say that sexual immorality or malicious speech is alright. That would be a lie. We must not deny the coming wrath of God - that would be a lie. We must not teach that we need something more than the death of Christ to make us right with God - another lie. We must not distinguish some Christians as being more important than other Christians according to the world's standards (perhaps even that the church would be more blessed by having the services of an intelligent first-class honours president of an approved Christian Union rather than a chap who can't find his way through a maze puzzle) - that would be a lie. (Cf. "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs... (Colossians 3:16)).

It is thus that we experience the power of the resurrection of Jesus in our lives.


Interesting deceased bovine-related reading:
Know your Steak
Raising the Steaks
Steve Holzinger, The Great American Steak
Mark Bittman, Why I Love Skirt Steak and just about everything on the New York Times' Diner's Journal blog
Mark Schatzker, Steak: Search for the World's Tastiest Piece

John Woodhouse on Colossians at Moore College

Moore College - John Woodhouse - Colossians 3:5-11 from Audio Advice.

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