How Chocolate Chip Cookies Can Save the Church

Chocolate chip cookies are my favorite!

For anyone that knows me, that’s probably not really a big surprise.  Homemade are the best!  There’s something about the love and care that goes into a cookie from home that you can’t get from a machine.  Probably my favorite kind of chocolate chip cookie is based on the Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Pan Cookies.  It’s sort of like a blondie and a chocolate chip cookie combined into one.  Yum.  These were the chocolate chip cookies of my youth.  My mom would make them on very rare occasions, and they tasted so good out of the oven, they would melt in your mouth! I love the taste of brown sugar and butter with the hot melting chocolate chips as it just oozes across your taste buds especially when it’s followed by a nice cold glass of milk.  The best.  But have you ever thought about what goes INTO a chocolate chip cookie?  I never really did.  Sugar, brown sugar, flour, salt, baking powder, vanilla extract, eggs, and of course chocolate chips.  Pretty much what you’d expect, right?  A lot of the same basic ingredients you find in most baking recipes.  But did you know crystallized sugar originally came from India?  It was discovered about the 5th century.  Today Brazil is the biggest exporter of sugar.  The story is similar for the vanilla bean which is used for the vanilla extract.  Originally found only in Mexico, the Totonac people of the Mazatlan valley were the first to cultivate it.  But after a 12-year old slave by the name of Edmond Albius discovered how to hand-pollinate the plant, the vanilla industry thrived and today most vanilla is produced in Madagascar.  The chocolate chip cookie itself is a 20th century invention of Ruth Graves Wakefield of the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts.  She was the one who blended in chunks of chocolate into a cookie back in 1937 to make one of my favorite desserts today.  The chocolate chip itself wasn’t created until 1941 when chocolate companies decided to package chocolate into baking morsels.  Before that people would have to break apart the chocolate into chunks on their own.  And the famous Nestle Toll House Cookies were named after the place of their birth in Massachusetts.  So each time I bite into one of my favorite homemade chocolate chip cookies, I have to thank the people of India, Brazil, Mexico, Madagascar, and Ruth Graves Wakefield of the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts.[1]

The famous Craig’s Kitchen Chocolate Chip Pan Cookies!

All of that to say that life is far more complex than the narrow window we view it through.

To describe a chocolate chip cookie I only expanded upon three of the ingredients and already had to credit five completely different civilizations across history.  Who knows who else we would include if we traced the history of flour or baking powder or brown sugar?  I can generally give credit to God and the chicken for eggs, but who first thought to combine it with flour to make dough?  In our attempt to simplify the world into manageable nuggets of information that we can remember, we often forget the complexity that makes up God’s brilliant design.  We forget about the diverse nature of the world and how each part was created by God and contributes in its own way to a far more complex world than we can understand. 

Our passage from the Bible today illustrates the rich diversity of God’s creation.

As you probably know, Genesis is about the beginning of all creation and the writer gives us a glimpse into the work God has done.  Prior to our selection, God has already been creating tons of different stuff.  He’s created the heavens and the earth, light and darkness, and the water and the sky.  The basics.  Then God creates gets into even more complex stuff – land, vegetation, and time.  Think about that.  God CREATED time.  Next, he created the stars and the sun and the moon, but so far, no other life on the Earth other than plants.  And then this is where we come in. 

20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

 24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

Diversity in creation is meaningful if not always obvious

We sort of take creation for granted don’t we?

I mean we have birds and fish and whales and if you believe in evolution dinosaurs which are very cool and lions and cows and all of these other kinds of animals.  Just tons of different animals populating the Earth, and this is BEFORE human beings even come into the picture.  But have you ever asked yourself why?  Not why did God create these things before humans although that’s a great question, but why did God create them at all?  Why did God create waters teeming with living creatures?  For me, I would have been happy with just the fish pretty much.  Really, why create jellyfish?  Whales are fun to watch, but what purpose do they serve?  And sharks.  God could have left out sharks.  Other than making for good documentaries and a couple of mediocre movies of people who didn’t think to get out of the water, do sharks serve a purpose?  And yet God created all of them.  “God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.’ …God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds.  And God saw that it was good.”  Do you ever think that maybe, just maybe, God created this vast abundance not just so we can have a great variety of menu choices at our favorite restaurant, but because they serve a purpose on this planet of ours? 

Dory and Marlin – fearful of the jellyfish! (From Pixar’s Finding Nemo)

Take for example the jellyfish.[2]

Like I said before, you might wonder why God would create jellyfish?  They have a sting that at its most severe can cause death to humans and other wildlife and they have also been known to cause other kinds of problems as well.  Did you know back in 1999, they were responsible for a cascading blackout in the Philippines?  And back in 2008 they caused the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in San Luis Obispo to shut down for two days?  But jellyfish have their upside as well.  They are considered a culinary delicacy in many Asian countries.  More than just a food source, jellyfish are also harvested for their collagen, which is used to help treat rheumatoid arthritis.  On the surface, jellyfish seem pretty useless or even deadly, but they have other purposes as well.   Some of which we know about and probably some of which we don’t.  Which is to say God creates this huge diversity of beings for a reason and that given the chance to learn about them and learn FROM them we can discover some amazing things.  But we have to open to the possibility that 1.) we don’t know everything and 2.) sometimes the value in one of God’s creations, while not apparent at first, may yield amazing results.

A recent study on church congregations revealed how important diversity is to God’s purpose.

Baylor University just released its findings after doing research on churches over a twenty-year period and came to the conclusion that racially diverse churches had higher attendance on average than their largely all-white counterparts.  These findings contradict some long-held beliefs in what has been referred to as “the homogenous unit principle” – “the idea that churches flourish if they stick to people of the same race and class.”[3]  Believe it or not, this isn’t just a theory held onto by scholars and scientists but by many folks sitting in the pews.  The number of times I’ve heard people saying the same exact thing – that our best outreach strategy is to reach out to “people like us” – would probably surprise you.  Most of these people would never think of this as being racist, but being practical.  But consider this.  That kind of thinking is what justified holding women back from positions in leadership.  Claiming to “hire the best person regardless of gender” was often an excuse for not including women in leadership, but as studies have shown, companies with more women on their board of directors tend to be more successful and profitable than their counterparts.[4]  We have to overcome our fears and our prejudices to embrace the rich diversity of God’s creation.  It’s not only the right thing to do (which should be enough) but is also the route that will lead us to helping others come to faith in Christ.

Diversity is something God is great at.

Look at our earlier reading today.  I love the image Paul uses in this passage from 1 Corinthians that we are all parts of one body and no matter how we behave or what we think about one another, it doesn’t take away from the fact we really are connected in God’s great creation.  He writes in verse 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….But in fact (verse 18) God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.”  We are all different.  We all come from different backgrounds with different life experiences, but instead of generalizing or discounting them, we should embrace those differences.  I said “embrace” not whole-heartedly love, because the truth is sometimes we won’t even like the differences.  But we CAN learn from them.  We can learn more about others and more about ourselves and when we do that we can better understand why God saw it was good when he created us and this world we live in.  We can realize even if we are a hand and the other person is a foot, they may have something to contribute even if we don’t understand what that contribution is.  Are there some people who contribute nothing to the world?  I don’t know.  Maybe there is and maybe there isn’t.  It’s easy to think of the extremes when contemplating these types of philosophical questions – Hitler, Stalin, Genghis Khan.  We may not know the answer to that, but we do know God loves us all and we have inherent value in God’s eyes.  Let us embrace the ways God made us different, and realize we are still one in Christ.  Let us love the uniqueness of each person for God created you and loves you and sees in you what nobody else can see – all the potential of your full self.  None of us are “normal.”  We’re all weird in our own, wonderful way.  And that’s the way God made us.  In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

[1] Research for this section was done by referencing Wikipedia for “sugar,” “vanilla,” and “chocolate chip.”




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