Both Adam - our Director of Music - and I love coffee. I do not know how much coffee Adam drinks in a day, but I generally drink between two or three cups daily. The best day for my coffee binging is Sundays, where I drink close to five cups by the time the two services are over. I am usually not as much bothered about the cup as I am about the coffee - Is it strong or mild? Is it regular or decaf? Is it good, or not so good?
In one of his eloquent writings, Dr. Martin Luther King admonishes us to focus on the content of a character and not the color of one’s skin, because it really doesn’t matter what the color of a person is if the content of the character is awful. You may have heard it said that "appearances can be deceptive" and "all that glitters isn't gold." For this reason, then, the invitation is not to be drawn into an appearance-driven hypothesis, but rather to honor oneself with the real gift which lies in the cup - the life, which is coffee.
There’s a story of a group of university alumni who, all highly established in their respective careers, got together for a visit with their former professor. The conversation soon turned to complaints about the endless stress of work, and of life in general. Offering his guests coffee, the professor went into the kitchen and soon returned with a large pot of coffee and an eclectic assortment of cups: porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain, some expensive, some quite exquisite. Quietly, he told them to help themselves to some fresh coffee.
When each of his former students had a cup of coffee in hand, the old professor quietly cleared his throat and began to patiently address the small gathering. He said, ''You may have noticed that all of the nicer looking cups were taken up first, leaving behind the plainer and cheaper ones. While it is only natural for you to want only the best for yourselves, this is actually the source of many of your stress-related problems!"
He continued: ''Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In fact, the cup merely disguises or dresses up what we drink. What each of you really wanted was the coffee, not a cup, and yet you instinctively went for the best cups... Then you began eyeing each other's cups....''
''Now consider this: Life is the coffee. Jobs, money, and position in society are merely the cups. They are just tools to shape and contain life, and the type of cup we have does not truly define nor change the quality of the life we live. Often, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee that God has provided us. God brews the coffee, but he does not supply the cups. Enjoy your coffee!''
I am sure most of you have by now received your Stewardship Letters and Pledge Cards for the year 2020. Over the past two Sundays, I have shared at worship that Stewardship season is the most exciting time of the year. And it is so because that's the period when we are invited to make some of the difficult and yet grateful decisions regarding our commitment to God. Stewardship season is the time of evaluation, when we are invited to be clear in our minds about the "life within the cup", and whether it is transforming and life-giving. Stewardship season offers us the opportunity to reflect on our own sense of gratitude, to hold up the mirror to our face, and to motivate ourselves with these words: ‘Whatever I keep is all that I have, and whatever I give, God is able to multiply.’ In other words, no gift is ever too large or too small; God is able to make more of whatever I do give.
During Bible Study yesterday, we reflected on Hosea 2:14 “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.” In this text, we read of God’s intention to reconstitute the broken relationship with Israel. More importantly, God seeks to do this by speaking tenderly to Israel in no other place than the wilderness. We then invited ourselves to substitute the pronouns in the text with our individual names, and ask ourselves the following: Yes, God is wooing you, and he’s taking you to a place of solitude and naturalness - the place where you are alone with Him - so which of God's tender words do YOU want to hear?
I may not be entirely certain about what I, myself, would want to hear, but these are some of the words that I would love to have God speak to me: "The happiest people don't have the best of everything - they just make the best of everything they have...So please remember: Live simply. Love unconditionally. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Give generously. Leave the rest to God. And remember - the richest person is not the one who has the most, but the one who needs the least."
My appeal to you during this most exciting time of the year is to consider the gracious ministry that is made possible here at Christ Church, not because of how rich you are, but because you are full of that very coffee, which is life itself.