Betty’s cinnamon buns

Betty is known in our congregation for her desserts, cakes, and cookies. She has a gift (surely baking for God’s people can be a spiritual gift) because when Betty has something to do with our Sunday morning coffee hour, no one wants to miss it. For years her delicious food gifts have contributed to the hospitality and fellowship among us.

Betty died a week ago. We miss her. I just got home from her funeral.

Yesterday I put aside writing her funeral sermon and picked up our congregation’s newest cookbook that was put together this past year. It contains one of her recipes, a favorite of the congregation: Betty’s cinnamon buns. I left the office, drove to the local grocery store to buy ingredients (I rarely bake anymore), and burst into my kitchen with determination to make for the first time in my life cinnamon buns in her honor. Betty would be proud.

I mixed several ingredients: flour, butter, sugar, vegetable oil and yeast. Then I set them in a warm place, the yeast went to work and the dough started to rise. Hurray; beginner’s success! After a courteous wait, I rolled the dough out, slathered it with butter and cinnamon, rolled the dough up again, cutting off round swirls, and placing them in a pan coated with brown sugar syrup.

I made some mistakes and readjusted, but finally the baking aroma of yeasty bread was wonderfully soothing. I started thinking how there is no way I could separate the ingredients back out of these cinnamon buns. There is no way I could take the yeast out again. The flour, sugar and butter had been transformed by the yeast into something delicious, if I could keep my finicky oven from burning them.

Betty, like any good Lutheran, would be one of the first to tell me that she has had failures, that she is a sinner, like I am. But she and I both know that when we are baptized into Christ, when God’s word and promises are mixed into us, when we share in communion together and receive Christ’s forgiving presence into us, when we actively trust God in faith, (even when we are in nursing care and are kept from baking), a transformation begins to happen. Christ has been mixed into us and there is nothing that will separate him back out of us. Not even our dying. Not even Betty’s dying.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life…nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8.38-39

The uneven, over-heating oven did its best to burn the batch, but I watched like a hawk. Enough cinnamon buns were rescued to bring along to Betty’s grandchildren at the funeral today. Making her recipe has made me more thankful for the gift of Christ’s hospitality and nurture. I thought about having cinnamon buns for the communion bread…but didn’t go that far. But I carry this with me: where Christ is, there we are too, being transformed and changed. The fact that the yeast of Christ’s love has transformed Betty into a new life is good reason to celebrate on a day such as this. And we who are left on earth today celebrate Christ being mixed into our midst, changing us and making us strong for the weeks and months to come when we don’t have Betty and her gifts nurturing our community.


  1. Elaine, sorry to hear about your friend’s passing. Well put about the separating analogy.

    I have a friend named Betti who also makes amazing cinnamon buns which she would often give to us at the Christmas eve service so we would have some for Christmas morning. Sweet in so many ways. 🙂


  2. There is a fine little video that I still use for First Communion instruction, called “Grandma’s Bread”. Do you know it? I’ve seen it oodles of times, and it still brings tears to my eyes. The story also makes the connections between bread and transformation, eucharist and resurrection hope, and the power of love…