“Should we say something to her?”
“It’s not her fault. She didn’t grow up in church.”
The object of concern brought a cup of coffee into the sanctuary and set it down on the pew as if it was acceptable behavior. The troubled church members tried to let her know telepathically that coffee is not allowed in the sanctuary. How could she miss the invisible line beyond which a cup of joe is not permitted?
But how could the church not see that in a world that is asleep, coffee is no doze?
Coffee appears only two times in The Message Bible: “Never again will friends drop in for coffee” (Job 7:10) and “Wait table for me until I’ve finished my coffee” (Luke 17:8). Imagine how many times “coffee” would be in the concordance if Jesus had thought to change water into cappuccinos at the wedding in Cana.
“Imagine how many times ‘coffee’ would be in the concordance if Jesus had thought to change water into cappuccinos at the wedding in Cana.”
Opening the church to coffee drinkers has been a long, difficult struggle. Coffee dates back to the 15th century and the Sufi monasteries of Yemen. One legend is that the mystic Ghothul Akbar Nooruddin Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili was traveling in Ethiopia. He saw birds acting unusually lively, and upon trying the berries that the birds had been eating, experienced the same vitality. Coffee was soon part of religious practice in the Islamic world. The Sufis used the beverage to keep themselves alert during nighttime devotions and as a kind of spiritual intoxication when they chanted the name of God.
Because Muslims loved coffee, several Christian groups, including The Ethiopian Orthodox Church, made a big brouhaha and banned coffee. Mormons still avoid this potion made with magic beans.
Churches need to wake up and smell the coffee. When I ask Siri to “find coffee” she lists four places within 800 feet of my house. Our neighborhood has more coffee shops than churches.
Coffee is the most important meal of the day for many. In the midst of the daily grind, coffee is invigorating. A yawn is a silent scream for coffee. Sleep is a symptom of caffeine deprivation. Coffee smells like freshly ground heaven and tastes like hopes and dreams.
When we are holding a cup of coffee, the warmth radiates through our hands. The aroma drifts through the air. The cream goes into black coffee and magically changes it into good-to-the-last-drop caramel. This sensual experience helps our sleepy selves greet the day with gratitude. We reflect on what we now have the energy to achieve.
“We should take our coffee seriously and joyfully. We should fill our churches with sugar and cream, sweetness and light.”
Worship would be less lively without a cup of joy. We can tell a lot about a church from how they caffeinate worshippers. My parents’ Baptist church is Folgers. Unitarians drink fair trade coffee. Mennonites have Keurig committees that wash and recycle those little cups. Presbyterians fill their fellowship halls for the sacrament of coffee hour. Catholics serve decaf at midnight mass. Sharing coffee is a way of saying, “We love you a latte.”
Church should be a place for common ground and a home to hang your mug. “Bible study” is less enticing than “Coffee and Bible study.” Nominating committees should choose a church barista.
“Would you like a cup of coffee?” is an offer of friendship. Coffee turns a counseling session into a conversation between friends. Saying “yes” to coffee at the end of a meal is a promise to hang around.
Here is a question that needs to percolate: would coffee be a better symbol for communion? Grape juice is dull. Wine puts you to sleep. Coffee refreshes, revives and stimulates. The Lord’s Table could be a coffee table. If we drank coffee at communion, we could get rid of those tiny shot glasses. Picture the communion cup holders on the backs of pews becoming real cup holders. Coffee would be a fine symbol for the enlivening of the Spirit that happens at the table.
We should take our coffee seriously and joyfully. We should fill our churches with sugar and cream, sweetness and light.