Week 2: Shortbread and Justice

Give the king your justice, O God,
    and your righteousness to a king’s son.
May he judge your people with righteousness
    and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
    and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
    give deliverance to the needy,
    and crush the oppressor.
May he live while the sun endures
    and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
    like showers that water the earth.
In his days may righteousness flourish
    and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

18 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
    who alone does wondrous things.
19 Blessed be his glorious name forever;
    may his glory fill the whole earth.
                Amen and Amen.

Psalm 72:1-7,18-19


When I hear words like Justice, my mind immediately turns to exciting courtroom dramas. Whether it is Perry Mason, Ben Matlock, Jack McCoy, or Ally McBeal, these shows make the fight for justice epic and exciting. Usually there is an impassioned argument, a last-minute surprise, and of course the righteous victory. In the world of TV justice, the system largely works and those who are in the wrong get their deserved consequences. 

Now if course, we do not live in TV Land. There are so many studies which bring to light how our system of Justice is in fact biased towards those with wealth or status, those with white skin or good looks. While on TV a good lawyer can bring in high ratings, in the real world, a good lawyer can bend the scales of justice towards their client while the overworked public defender is often incapable of providing sufficient advocacy for their clients. 

The fallibility of judicial systems is not a modern phenomenon. In this psalm, we see God intervening into the human courts on both sides. God as both judge and defense wields a gavel with righteousness and a justice that is beyond our human abilities. In this system of divine Justice those whose voices have been silenced or excluded get amplified and those who have benefited from the impoverishment of others are brought low. 

In our judicial system, there is an imposed binary between two opposing sides that then fight it out in a courtroom. While this makes for good TV, it does not make for healed communities. In the psalm, God’s Justice is not zero-sum, but instead it permeates the land bringing healing and restoration to people and all of creation.  In the other lectionary reading for this week (Isaiah 11:1-10), we see another image of what this God-reigning world looks like. Here in Isaiah’s vision of a peaceable kingdom, wolves and lambs as bedfellows and lions sharing straw with oxen makes perfect sense. Such an image seems absurd to us, but that is the point. His description uproots our thinking from the systems and patterns that have been imposed upon us. Media, news, and leaders try and simplify the stories of our world so that we have good guys and bad guys, heroes and villains, guilty and innocent. 

The teachings of Jesus begin to change that narrative for us. Whereas the Hebrew laws allowed for measured retribution, Jesus calls us to turn the other cheek and forgive rather than exact the revenge we are entitled to. We are told to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Instead of casting stones of judgment, we are told to reflect on our own sinfulness. The soldier who is coming to arrest Jesus receives a healing and the thief who justifiably hangs beside him on the cross receives a last-minute acceptance into Paradise. In each of these instances, Jesus subverts the legal justice of his day and holds up for us a model of love, humility, compassion, and forgiveness. 

Our nation has just gone through another contentious election cycle. From politicians to media analysts, and to the opinionated people on our newsfeeds, we have been invited over and over again to accept the dichotomy where there is us verses them, good verses evil. This psalm combined with the message of Christ invites us into a different perspective. When we choose to reject the duality of our world and accept the perspective of love, humility, compassion, and forgiveness that Jesus models for us, we begin to reshape our broken and divided world into the unity that God desires for it. This is the picture at the end of the psalm where rain is abundant in the lush and fertile land, where God’s righteousness abounds, and glory of the Lord permeates all of creation. 


God of my neighbors and God of my enemies, it is really hard for me to imagine you being the God of both. It is really hard for me to imagine how you have love for both, and love for me. God, I confess that I get too comfortable with that ignorance. Help me to break down the mental architecture that puts people into easy categories so that you can build within myself a heart where your love can welcome all people. Amen.

Baking Reflections

This week’s recipe is a Palestinian style shortbread which is one of the traditional desserts during this time of year. Food is one of the few things that unite our world. No matter where you are, everyone has to eat. Additionally, so often in communities that are in conflict, reconciliation begins when the two sides break bread and enjoy a meal together. It is that shared experience which opens the doors for deeper conversations and healing to take place. 

The conflict between Israel and Palestine is one of longest and most complicated in our world.  With a long series of alternating conversations and conflicts and the intervention and posturing of many outside groups. While I was in Israel several years ago, I got to have conversations with some on both sides of this conflict and I came away with a greater appreciation for the deep divisions and pain caused by the generations of violence. While a conversation about how we as Christians can support peace and justice in the Middle East is worthwhile, and I would recommend reading up on the history and quality journalism that is coming from the area, this week’s practice is not based on a solution, but solidarity. Too often, we jump to try and fix an issue and overlook the people who are caught up within it. People whose lives are marked by fear and danger, but also by grace and beauty. As you bake these cookies, I encourage you to pray for the families and children on both sides.  Pray for wounds to be healed and justice to be imaged. If you have strong opinions about one side or the other, spend some extra time praying for “the enemy.” Let your prayers come from a place of love rather than anger. 

While global issues of Justice capture our attention, it is the local injustices and divisions within our own lives that are the easiest to avoid, but also the most accessible to change. As you press the nuts into the dough, ask yourself, “What are the hard places in my heart that need to be softened, so I can love my enemy?” 

As you curve the cookies into their traditional shape, reflect on what could be bent or changed in your life to allow for reconciliation with someone. 


Note: When I was preparing cookies for the photoshoot, in my haste, I forgot to include the pistachios in the batter. You can choose to leave them out as well, but the overwhelming opinion was that they were better included.


Recipe adapted from Wafa Shami at palestineinadish.com
Before baking, check out our baking tips.
Yields 20-25 cookies

Wet Ingredients

  • 2 Sticks of Butter (227g) (room temperature)
  • 1c Confectioner Sugar (114g)
  • 1T Orange Blossom Water (or Zest of 1 Orange)

Dry Ingredients

  • 2c All-Purpose Flour (240g) 


  • ½c Pistachios (or Roasted  Almonds)(chopped)(75g) Save 20 whole for decoration. 


  1. In your stand mixer, combine the butter and confectioner sugar. (You do not need to sift it.)
  1. Add the orange blossom water (or zest) and combine
  1. Slowly add the flour until the dough is soft and smooth  (You may not need all the flour)
  1. Chop pistachios and add to the batter. Remove 20 to include as decoration
  1. Dump the shaggy dough onto plastic wrap. Mix with your hands until the dough is formed. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 20-30 minutes. 
  1. When you are ready yo bake, pre-heat your oven to 325°F
  2. Remove dough from the refrigerator. It will be very firm. Don’t worry, as you work it, it will warm up.
  3. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and then each quarter into 3-4 pieces. Roll into the sections into long ropes about the width of your finger. (If the dough is too crumbly knead the dough in your hands until it is smooth) I found that rolling between my hands was the most effective, but on the counter works as well (you may need a very little bit of flour as a last resort.) Cut into 5 inch segments. 
  4. Shape into a curved “S” shape and place on a parchment lined baking sheet an inch apart. Place a whole pistachio in the middle. 
  1. Once the tray is full, bake for 15-19 minutes (mine took 17). The cookies will be pale and soft with slight browning on the edges. They will firm up more when they have cooled. 

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