On Sunday, the people of Seward United Methodist Church handed out about 300 bags of cookies. We handed them out to local businesses up and down our street, to the folks behind counters and bars and back in the kitchen. We handed them out at the SeaLife Center. We handed them out at the boat harbor. We tried to give then mostly to local folks, local workers, but lots of tourists passing by got cookies as well.
And when people asked what the cookies were for, we told them they were from The United Methodist Church and that we were just out and about trying to love our community. One of the adults “flinging” cookies told a recipient, “We just determined we’d had enough preaching and it was time to do some serving.” I got a phone call and a Facebook message from participants saying how much fun they had. And pretty much everyone was pleased to get some cookies. People like cookies!
This is part of how I see ministry and involvement with community. In fact, I have a whole history and theology worked up around “flinging cookies.”
The story begins some years ago, back when I was at Girdwood Chapel. We were trying to find ways to take our service, our love of Christ, into the surrounding community. We read a book, Outflow, by Steve Sjogren. It’s a good book. It came with a study guide and worship resources. The book talked about how we are to be filled up with the love of God and how that love is to spill over into our family, our neighborhoods, and our world.
But my main takeaway from that book was the author’s interpretation of the Parable of the Sower from Matthew 13:
“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
The author talks about how that sower was sowing those seeds. He was scattering them willy-nilly, tossing them this way and that. He clearly wasn’t just going out to find the prime ground to plant seeds in. He was throwing seeds all over the place in a way that seems careless and wasteful to anyone who is going to take planting very seriously. And, while it is true that some of that seed falls on the rock and on the path and in the weeds and doesn’t grow, some of it falls on good soil, maybe hidden good soil, and begins to grow.
The author says that he wants to be that way in showing God’s love to the people around him. He wants to offer love around carelessly, foolishly, offering it to one and all, even if only in small ways. Some of that love is going to fall on the rocks and the path and the weeds but some of it will fall in good soil. In a sentence I remember, the author says, “I want to be a prodigious, indiscriminate, seed-flinger for Jesus.” (I think we can come to a similar theological point in looking at the Prodigal Son story from Luke 15 as well).
That last sentence (“prodigious, indiscriminate, seed-flinger” resonated with me for how I wished the church would be viewed by our communities…as an entity filled with persons who were scattering the love and grace of God around, even in small ways.
At the time we were talking about this concept at Girdwood Chapel, a teenage girl asked if we could hand out cookies to the “lifties” at the ski resort as a way to show God’s love. And so we did. And we had so much fun and it was so well received that we did it again and again…about three times a year. It became “cookie flinging…prodigious, indiscriminate cookie flinging for Jesus.”
It’s just a simple way to share love and grace.
It’s just a simple way to help church folks see the importance of reaching out to their community.
It’s just a simple way to let your neighbors know you love them can care for them.
And it’s a whole lot of fun.
Well, we had our first “fling” in Seward this Sunday. And, you know, we may not always do cookies although people seem to love free cookies. There may be other ways to reach out, to serve, to love. But for right now, it’s a start. And it was a blast.