I spent a recent evening with a young couple in our church who had invited me for dinner and "get to know you" conversation. I had a delightful time. (I trust they did too!) Visiting in homes is one of my great pleasures and I have so little time in which to do so. After dinner, they made me a wonderful cup of Kona coffee, brewed with care at precisely the right temperature, and it was a delicious culmination to the evening.
Those who know me are acutely aware that I enjoy a good cup of coffee. I´m not the type of connoisseur who can tell the difference between a Guatemalan Maragogype and a Yemeni Mocha. But I do love a good, strong cup of ‘joe.´ I dislike coffee that is interchangeable with brewed cardboard. Give me coffee with character. Some of you remember that when Laurie and I arrived at First Church only decaffeinated coffee was served. I wonder what happened to that policy? Anyway, I appreciated the following story that several members sent to me about a little gathering that took place over coffee.
"A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life. He offered his guests coffee. The professor went to the kitchen and returned with a pot of coffee and an assortment of cups – porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain, some expensive, some chipped, and told them to help themselves to the coffee.
"Finally, all of his former students had a cup of coffee in hand. The professor said, "If you noticed, all the nice, expensive cups were taken up right away, leaving behind the plain and cheap cups. It´s normal for you to want only the best for yourselves; but that is the source of your problems and stress. The cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. The cup is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup; but you consciously went for the best cups.
"Now consider this: Life is the coffee, and the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain the Life God gives, and the type of cup we have does not define nor change the quality of Life we live. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us."
Just as I like coffee with a distinct persona, I like a church with character. I love First Church because there is a insatiable desire here to do good. The will to do good expresses itself in myriad ways, through ministries in the city and around the world. The ever-restless desire to find new avenues through which to "do good" is perhaps the central identifying characteristic of the congregation. The ministries (like the cups) vary and change, but the brew is still the same.
In this, we embody the DNA of John Wesley. From him (archaic language and all) I offer this potent and moving quote:
"What shalt thou do? Do good! Do all the good thou canst. Let thy plenty supply thy neighbor´s wants; and thou wilt never want something to do. Canst thou find none that need the necessaries of life, that are pinched with cold or hunger; none that have not raiment to put on, or a place where to lay their head; none that are wasted with pining sickness; none that are languishing in prison? If you duly considered our Lord´s words, ‘The poor have you always with you,´ you would no more ask, ‘What shall I do?!´ (John Wesley, "On Worldly Folly")Are you ready for a strong cup? Then "Do not grow weary in doing good!" (Galatians 6:9). I look forward to seeing you Sunday in the place where goodness is encouraged to grow.