Potatoes, as they come out of the field, are not much to look at.  They are an ugly brown, covered with dirt, and unshapely.  The “good ones” are rock hard.  Many have odd looking things projecting out from the main part of the body.  I wonder who ever thought of eating these ugly, useless looking items.
Once in from the field, the first task is to wash off all the dirt, scrub off the projectiles, and cut out all of the bad spots.  The old-fashioned way of making mashed potatoes would have you then peel the potatoes, quarter them, boil them until soft, and then mash them until creamy (adding milk and whatever).  Of course today we can buy 100% REAL Idaho Potatoes that one simply needs to combine with boiling water to make the creamiest and tastiest mashed potatoes ever.
And, as you well know, mashed is not the only way to fix a potato.  You can fresh-fry them, with or without skins.  You can scallop them.  You can use them to make French fries (did these originate in France?) or hash browns.  There is potato soup and a wide variety of potato salads – some hot but generally cold.  The list goes on and on …
And then there are baked potatoes.  They come out of the field just like every other potato:  ugly, dirty, and hard.  You clean them up in the same way you do for any other potato recipe.  At this point in the process the potato is no longer dirty but remains as ugly and hard as ever.  The baking process can be accomplished in a variety of ways – covered or uncovered … oven, grill, campfire, or whatever.  I am told that it is wise to use a fork to poke holes into the potato before applying the heat so that the potato gets evenly cooked all the way through.
But that’s not quite the end of the story, for one does not eat a baked potato as one eats an apple.  My preference is to cut the baked potato wide open (with more than one slice) and then lather the top with a thick layer of butter.  Of course, there are many other toppings that are often added to the mix.  The steam rising from the baked potato melts the butter.  The melted butter saturates the entirety of the potato … and (not so suddenly) the item that was once dirty, hard, and ugly becomes a tasty food staple.
Just writing all of this makes me anticipate the grilling season all the more … warm summer evenings, meat on the grill, a cold beverage in my hand, the Tigers on TV … and a tasty, buttery baked potato as the side.  Unfortunately, it looks like we will have to wait a little while for this scene to move from my mind to the backyard.  It seems like everything really worthwhile takes time.
The other day I realized that in many ways we are very similar to baked potatoes!  While in the confession we use the words “by nature sinful and unclean,” we could use the words “ugly, dirty, and hard(hearted)” to describe our nature.  However, God, much like a potato farmer, envisions our potential.  So he takes us from that dirty environment, cleans us up, and makes us to be tasty staples (or valuable contributors) to life on earth.
However, the process tends to be neither quick nor simple.  Like the fork’s tines, the knife’s blade, and the oven’s heat, the Law tears us apart and softens us.  At this point we are not so hard, ugly, or dirty, but hardly a tasty staple.  Like the butter smothered on top of a hot potato, it takes an outside ingredient – Christ active in his Word of the Gospel – to transform us.  Slowly it saturates the entirety of our being and we become what God has always envisioned us to be.  One could even say that, in this process, the Holy Spirit works as the seasonings and additional toppings.
I heard a speaker the other day mention that when we are justified (made righteous) by Christ our whole identity is changed – even though in many ways we remain the same people.  Our new identity is “Redeemed Child of God in Christ Jesus”.  It is given us in our baptism … and takes us from being “dirty, ugly, and hard” to being tasty staples in the world.
However, one problem we have that I am sure potatoes don’t have, is that it is difficult for this concept to get into (saturate) our hard heads.  We need to keep hearing the Good News over and over and over again.  This is one reason the tag line on my emails reads “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10.17) The more we “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” God’s Word on a regular basis, the more saturated we become … or the more we are able to appreciate and live out the new identity we have been given in the righteousness of Jesus.

And I ask you, have you ever had a baked potato with TOO MUCH butter on it?!

Baked Potatoes