Last year, the movie Waitress came out to positive critical review but almost no one saw it. Which is too bad because it's excellent. Jenna Hunterson is a waitress in a small town, married to an absolute lout. She rarely smiles. Her life is not what she wanted it to be. But she makes the most glorious pies—Marshmallow Mermaid Pie, Bad Baby Pie, Lonely Chicago Pie, and Naughty Pumpkin Pie, just to name a few. People who eat her pies can't help but love them. She pours her heart and life into the crusts with the fillings. Jenna gets pregnant, meets a wonderful stranger, meets a crochety old man, and the rest I'll let you discover when you rent it. It's the pies I want to talk about.

You might say I'm nesting right now. With a little more than a month to go in my pregnancy, I'm cleaning and cooking like crazy. I've made pot roasts and meat loafs and quiches—things we rarely have at home. And I've made pies. My plan is to bake my way through the Pie and Pastry Bible, stopping only when I run out of butter or time. Today's pie is traditional Granny Smith Apple, though I may add some cranberries.

Pies are a conundrum. They're hugely tasty and comforting to the eater—the flaky, tender crust; the rich filling, sometimes fruit, sometimes savory; the warmth that comes from a fresh-baked pie that fills more than your belly. Yet pies are a challenge. I once preached about Lemon Meringue Pie a while back—the meringue is a monumental challenge if you make it by hand. But meringue is only an accessory, if you will, a garnish. If you want to make a truly marvelous pie, you've got to start with the crust. Four ingredients, usually—flour, salt, butter, and water—in the right proportion, at the right temperatures, combined in the right order. And it's not something you can rush—no-bake or store-bought crusts just aren't satisfying. You can't take too long, either. If you overwork the dough, you'll get a tough, unappetizing crust. It's a delicate balance. A good pie crust is flavorful, flaky, tender, and lightly browned. And it is a labor of love, sacrifice, and vulnerability.

Do you already see where I’m going with this? It's the time of year when we talk about financial contributions to the church—stewardship—and is traditionally the subject of much groaning. But think of your pledge as an ingredient in that pie crust. Making that transcendental pie requires sacrifice—of time, of money, of energy—yet it's a joyful sacrifice. Seeing the ingredients come together properly, adjusting as needed, looking forward with hope to the end product are all joyful things. That same pie requires vulnerability—at some point, we offer it to others, waiting to hear their comments. Will they like it? Will they come back for more? Will they pick up on the nuances of the crust and fillings?

We Christians put ourselves out there in the hopes that our lives may be seen as testaments to the Gospel. We give of ourselves, not because we ought to but because we want to. We share our stories with one another and with our friends and neighbors, not because we are commanded to but because we can't help but tell people the Good News we've experienced. And, brothers and sisters, nothing spreads the gospel like giving away a fresh-baked, homemade pie.