Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.James 5:7-10
One of my biggest mistakes in baking is taking a tray of cookies out of the oven too soon. There is a fine line between warm gooey centers and uncooked, potentially dangerous, raw filled pastry and that line is defined by patience. Sometimes, especially with this week’s cookie, I often have to set a timer and walk out of the oven.
I think it is very funny that this week’s lectionary readings present us with a passage about patience only a couple of weeks away from Christmas. This is the time that school is beginning to wind down, presents are getting purchased and stashed away, plans finalized for traveling loved ones, and holiday parties attended. Like gifts wrapped under a tree torturing inquisitive children everywhere, Advent is about waiting.
For the past two weeks we have focused on large ideas such as Peace and Justice and how we are called to live into these ideas. Our world and lives often contain so much brokenness and pain. Relationships which are damaged, communities divided, systems of oppression that are unchecked or encouraged, and illness and diseases that have no easy cause or solution, and grief, anxiety, and depression that cloud the joy and light of the season. When we step back, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the multitude of all that we are dealing with individually or collectively. The challenges of our present reality stand in stark contrast to the picture of perfect harmony and wholeness that prophets have been pointing us towards. This passage, however, stands for us as a bit of encouragement for how to press through the challenges of the in-between time we are living.
James begins with a word of hope: “Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord.” In other words, “Help is on the way!” The promise of the Kingdom of God is a big reminder that all of the brokenness in our world is temporary. Every system that is oppressive will be corrected, every injustice and pain will be healed. It may not be tomorrow or next year, or even in our lifetimes, but in the grand scheme of God’s work, it will be brought into alignment with God’s will.
It is easy to use this ultimate hope as a dismissal of the very real pain and struggles that accompany this interim period. To do this, however, misses the point. Throughout Scripture, God’s people have consistently taken an active posture of waiting. This means that while they expected a better future to come, they worked in the present to alleviate suffering and fight for justice. The prophets provide one example, instead of kicking their feet up and waiting for God to fix it all, they highlighted the broken places, the proclaimed the Good News of God’s justice and the reality of peace in the face of war. They did this when it was neither easy nor safe; they persevered because it was through their work that God brought our world a bit closer.
This active posture of waiting is also embodied perfectly in Jesus who we celebrate in this season as Emmanuel, God with us. While Jesus does not immediately usher in the Kingdom of God in all of its fullness, he does bring about smaller instances of transformation. When John the Baptist asked for a sign that Jesus was the one he had been proclaiming (Matt 11:2-11), Jesus pointed to these activities—the healings and liberation—that he was doing every day as signs that God was at work all around him. It is the same for us. The small victories and changes that we accomplish, through the power and courage of the Holy Spirit, move our world a bit closer to the perfect world that God is bringing. It can be easy to become discouraged or impatient, the prophets have been there as well, however, with each act of progress, we should also see a measure of hope because it is in that active waiting that God is making all things new!
Inbreaking God, you have stirred my heart so that it cannot settle for the world in its current state. Thank you. But I am going to need some help to wait. I need you to keep me attentive to myself so that I do not fall into despair. I need you to keep me focused so that I am not distracted from your direction. I need you to give me glimmers of hope so I can remember the world you are inviting us into. Thank you for waiting with me and working with me through it all. Amen
This week’s cookie is a personal favorite of mine and my friends: Monster Cookies. Monster cookies are a particular Mid-western specialty. Originated by a Michigan State photographer and father of six these cookies originally were a way for him to empty his cupboards and feed the many kids who would descend on his house every week. Although, my guess is the cookies also had something to do with his home’s popularity.
As you may have noticed, the first step in making most cookies is that you have to leave your butter out to soften. When the craving for cookies strikes, this can be a very frustrating thing. As you set out your butter for this recipe, place it somewhere you will notice it. Depending on the warmth of your house, your butter should be ready within an hour, but be intentional about that wait. You can set it out as you prepare the other ingredients, or as I sometimes do, set a stick of butter out as I leave the house for a stressful day. No matter how bad things get that day, there will be cookies ready to bake when you get home. As you see that butter and prepare the other ingredients, what are the signposts of hope for you?
Whereas most cookies strive for light and delicate textures, these monster cookies are dense and hearty. Other recipes incorporate some flour or have you grind the oats to lighten it up. However, for a text about strengthening for a long wait, I think you need the full peanut butter and oatiness to face the challenges of our world. As you incorporate those elements, what is giving you strength today?
During difficult seasons, it is the often-unexpected moments of joy that bring encouragement and hope. As you include the chocolate chips and M&Ms, reflect on what brings you joy? What is something fun you can do as a regular practice? Consider saying thanks to God for every M&M you press into the cookie.
Adapted from a recipe by Aaron Hannah.
Before baking, check out our baking tips.
Yields: 18-24 cookies
- 6T Salted Butter (soft)(86g) (3/4 of a stick)
- 1c Brown Sugar (packed) (200g)
- ½c White Sugar (100g)
- 2 Egg
- ½ tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1c Peanut Butter (250g)
- 3 ½ c Rolled Old Fashioned Oats (280g) (Do not use steel-cut or quick oats)
- ½ tsp Baking Soda
- 1 tsp salt (ONLY if you are not using salted butter)
- ¼ c +2T Chocolate chips (65g)
- ¼ c M&Ms (Plus more for on top)
- Pre-heat oven to 375°F
- Cream together the butter and sugars for 3 minutes. Scrape the bowl and paddle in the middle and at the end.
- Add your eggs one at a time making sure that the egg is fully incorporated before adding the next one. Add the vanilla after the last egg, scraping the bowl.
- Add the Peanut Butter to the bowl. Mix for 3 minutes until it is all incorporated.
- While mixing, combine your Oats and Soda in a large bowl. Making sure they are dispersed.
- Once the Peanut Butter is combined, add the Dry Ingredients to the bowl and mix to combine.
- Add the chocolate chips and M&Ms and mix until they are evenly dispersed. (Since there is no flour, you do not need to worry about over-mixing at this stage)
- Form the dough into golf ball sized pieces and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Place 3-4 M&Ms on top of each ball pressing them in slightly. With the back of your hand, press the ball of dough down into a thick disk to encourage the cookies to spread.
- Bake at 375°F for 12-16min or until the outside of the cookie has darkened slightly. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for at least 5 minutes so that the bottoms are set.
Note: You can put these into the refrigerator or freezer after portioning, however, they will not spread as much, so make sure you press the balls down a bit more so they are thick discs. Bring to room temperature before baking for best results.