Sometimes you find the best ingredients in unexpected places.
I love chocolate chip cookies. You can tell because I think this is the third time I’ve opened a sermon with a story about chocolate chip cookies. The mix of brown sugar, vanilla extract and chocolate chips makes my mouth water just thinking about it. And I had been content making my Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Pan Cookie recipe for years and years. It was a recipe that had worked every time. But when Cassie went gluten-free, I wanted to make something we could all enjoy. Cassie had also convinced me natural food was better. The less processed something was, the better it was for you, both in taste and in health. And so even though it might cost a little more, we should spring for the higher quality stuff. Before this, I had been content using whatever name brand butter was the cheapest. As long as it was decent, does it really matter? And as for chocolate chips? Well, it IS called the “Nestle” Tollhouse Cookie recipe. But I searched the stores and started using Kerrygold butter in our recipe. Kerrygold is a brand that uses all grass-fed cows. No feed. No wheat or grain. Just grass-fed. And you know what? It DID taste better! At the time, it was hard to find that brand anywhere but Whole Foods so there I went. Now you can find it even in WalMart, but since I was at Whole Foods anyway, I started looking for chocolate chips. As you can imagine, no Nestle chocolate chips there. But they had something better. Emma and I have always been fond of dark chocolate and being in an experimental mood anyway, I decided to go for the dark stuff instead of the normal semi-sweet we were used to using. And we found this amazing brand I had never heard of before – Guittard. Like Ghirardelli, they were based out of San Francisco so it was a local brand, but the flavor in their chips was just the right balance of flavor. Not too bitter, not too sweet. And for our family, we found a good chocolate chip cookie that works for us.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t other chocolate chip cookies out there that aren’t good.
Or even better than mine. In fact, I still love Mrs. Fields – not the ones from the store which are loaded in preservatives, but the ones you get in the mall made fresh that day. I love the Ooey Gooey Cookies from Milk in LA, so rich in chocolate that it just melts apart at the first bite. And pretty much I enjoy most homemade chocolate chip cookies regardless if they use fancy ingredients or not. But the world is made a better place for all of the variety in it. Had there not been options, I would never have found the perfect blend for our family. Something we can all enjoy. And I wouldn’t know what I liked if not for the opportunity to taste and try the things that other people like. It is in the rich diversity of the world that we find what works the best. No one has ever complained about the number of different chocolate chip cookies out in the world today. We simply find the ones we like and stick with those. But we don’t grow and learn if there aren’t options out there and if we are unwilling to do something different.
Now what in the world do chocolate chip cookies have to do with church?
Not that this is the first time I’ve brought up the subject. My love of chocolate chip cookies knows no bounds. But especially on this weekend where we celebrate the late Dr. Martin Luther King’s life and legacy, my mind started going in this direction. Not about cookies specifically, but about diversity. As much as I love the “I Have A Dream” speech, there was one line in particular I was thinking about on this day. It’s at the very end of the speech when Dr. King says, “…when we allow freedom to ring – when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” Dr. King wasn’t just speaking about racial equality. He was speaking about racial harmony. And more than that, he was talking about harmony among all people regardless of race or belief. Because even though he was an African-American Christian minister, he spoke as an ambassador for humanity. He knew, as God taught us, that the key to all of life is to love one another. It is ONLY through love that we can truly come to know God. And that is not dependent on race, gender, religion, or any other artificial construct the human mind can create to separate us.
Everyone is important.
Like the Holy Trinity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, we are meant to live in community and we are meant to contribute our part to the greater whole to make our lives and the lives of those around us better. When we undermine or undervalue those other parts or elevate our own, we not only do a disservice to them, but to God who created us all. If you have a Bible or a Bible app on your phone, would you please find 1 Corinthians 12:12. We’ll be sharing from that passage this morning. I’ve heard too many people use the word “diversity” as almost a curse word – something to be spit at or looked down upon. But it is in diversity that God has created the world. God didn’t create just generic human beings, but he created them man and woman and did so in every shape and color imaginable. But it’s sad how men didn’t appreciate the value of a woman’s contribution for literally millennia (and some still don’t today). It’s sad how we used the color of our skin to value another human being. And it’s sad to think that after all this time, we still haven’t learned how to really love one another. Each of us is a part of God’s grand design and ignoring the parts we don’t like or agree with cannot take that away. As this particular passage demonstrates. If you would rise for our reading this morning from 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. Hear now the Word of the Lord.
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
We all have something to contribute.
If we understand we are created in the image of God, then we also need to understand that each of us, like each part of the Trinity, plays a part in the world. We add our own unique and distinct voice to the choir of God’s creation. And whether that seems like a small and insignificant contribution, it doesn’t seem that way to God. And if it’s important to God, it should be important to us. But human beings are tempted by comfort. We like taking the lazy way out. So instead of being challenged by others, we surround ourselves with people who think like we do and act like we do and agree with what we believe. If we are a hand, we like other people who are hands and we ignore the foot. I mean, he’s way down there. What does he know about the life of a hand? We become isolationist. We insulate ourselves from others who are different. And we stop communicating with those who don’t prescribe to our point of view.
The Facebook algorithm is the worst creation in the world.
Serious shift in topic, I know. But not really. When you’re on Facebook, the people who operate it have created an algorithm to sort through all the different topics you might see on your feed. Some people I know have literally thousands of “friends” on Facebook and if you only saw their posts in chronological order you might get bored. So the people of Facebook came up with an algorithm to figure out what you might like the most and put THOSE pics and posts up first in your feed. That way you’ll want to keep coming back. But what it does is also limit your perspective to only those who already agree with you. Let’s face it, if they are your friends in the first place, you’re already limiting your perspective, but I have tons of friends who don’t think like I do or who have different political beliefs or who have different religious beliefs. Are they not important too? How will I grow if I don’t ever get exposed to different ways of thinking or believing? That’s not to say I’ll cave and do everything the way they do, but it gives me the chance to hear viewpoints I might normally not get the chance to hear. Or entice me to read something I might otherwise pass by. And Facebook isn’t the only culprit. The news we choose to watch, the radio shows we choose to listen to, the books we choose to read are all choices WE make. The problem is us. We often limit ourselves to the voices we like and agree with but never absorb other points of view.
We can never truly be free in a homogenous world.
It is in the diversity of creation that we truly discover ourselves. It is in the differences that we are molded and shaped and grow. And we can only be free when there are options available to us, because it’s only when we have options that we know the choices we’ve made are our own. But if we never hear those options or encounter those differences or experience that diversity, can we truly say we’ve made a free choice? Or have we simply taken the one in front of us? Our world today makes it easy to challenge ourselves to grow but also to bury ourselves in our own preconceptions of the world. It is not the fault of the Internet or any other innovation for failing to introduce us to new ideas. It is something we must decide for ourselves. Diversity in life is a beautiful thing and the way God meant for it to be. Challenge yourself to grow and learn by NOT being comfortable but instead to step outside of your comfort zone on a regular basis and see where life takes you.