- Date: February 20, 2022
- Bible Reading: John 7:37-52
- Free Resource: Washing Hands (Cross+Gen Worship, NL)
- Unit Theme (January 23—February 27): Invitation to Abundant Life
- The Point: Jesus provides us life-giving water through the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the water. We are the beans. The secret to a good cup of coffee is how much time the water actually spends with the beans.
The Kingdom of God Is Like a Cup of Coffee
If you are reading this, you probably are associated with a church somewhere. Perhaps a Senior Pastor or a Director of Education or one of those blessed folks we call Volunteer Sunday School Teachers. If this is true, you are highly likely to also drink coffee. There may even be a cup just off to your right. (If you are in youth ministry, then you probably enjoy coffee in significantly copious amounts.)
I love coffee. I’ve become somewhat of a coffee snob over the years. I am one of those people who grinds my own beans. I have a massive stainless steel French press. I also use one of those one-cup magic machines for daily use. In college, I was good with a 25-cent cup from Lawson’s. These days, I will occasionally treat myself to a Bruegger’s hazelnut. I don’t need any sort of frappe-anything. Froth belongs on carefully poured beer, not on coffee. One of my earliest childhood memories is being in the backseat of a freezing cold car and smelling the coffee my dad drank from a thermos.
Coffee has been a part of my life since I was born.
Go ahead take a sip if you have a cup nearby. Do you feel that? Coffee can be felt. It’s experienced. You feel it down into your toes and the tips of your fingers. Like Paul says of the Holy Spirit it binds us. It permeates all things (The Message, Galatians 5:22-23). Coffee is like the Spirit of God in that it not only seeps into our pores but binds us together as a community. Life in the Spirit is like a good cup of coffee. It permeates. It becomes part of our everyday walking-around lives. Whether in our jobs in ministry or daily interactions, these can be spirit-filled.
Brewing a Quality Cup of Coffee
“But those who drink the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).
John 7:37-39 says:
On the last and greatest day of the Festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this, he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time, the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
Revelation 21:6 says:
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty, I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.”
Revelation 22:17 adds:
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let those who hear say, “Come!” Let those who are thirsty come, and let all who wish take the free gift of the water of life.
The Holy Spirit = Living Water. Got that? Okay, let’s brew.
Start with Good Beans
You can buy a five-pound can of coffee from the Dollar Store (The easiest cashier job in the world.) It may have been packaged during World War 1, and you’ll be lucky if coffee is the only thing you find in the can.
What chance do we have of getting a decent cup out of it? It will do in a pinch but are you really going to go out of your way for it?
What sort of beans are we asking the Living Water to pour through? What lives are we leading to begin with? Living Water poured through a dollar-store faith isn’t going to have the desired effect. This whole God-connection thing has to be worth it to you. You have to put in the effort.
In The Message translation, we read in James chapter 3 about sticking a cup into the mud and thinking you’ll come up with clear water. That applies here.
Now let’s say you buy some perfect beans. You put them in a grinder and set it for COARSE. (Basically gravel.) Put this in your coffee maker and let the Living Water flow. It’s going to pass through like a colander. The water has no time to absorb the flavor. You have a cup of coffee that is weak and flavorless. You can have great beans but if you just let the water flow through what happens? You get a weak and flavorless faith. We go through the motions. We show up. We drop a check in the plate. We know most of the words to the hymns, but we still sing “Joy to the World” like it’s a dirge. How are you going to enjoy a flavorful life if there is no flavor? Spend time “in the Spirit.” Pray. Study. Work. Meditate. Contemplate. Do things with the intent of interacting with Spirit and then take that flavor into the world.
Now crank the dial the other way. See where it says, FINE. Grind those beans into a powder. The Living Water can’t pass through. It gets clogged, and we wind up with a new meaning for “drip.” The coffee is bitter and nasty.
Sometimes our faith can become too fine a grind. We get caught up in the minutia of the church. Welch’s or wine? Debts or trespasses? You can come in, but YOU can’t. You can worship here, but you can’t JOIN the church until you take this six-week discipleship course and look over our tithing primer. Don’t wear your hair like that? How many earrings do you really need? Is that a tattoo? Excuse me, you’re sitting in my pew. Too fine a grind and the Spirit get’s trapped. It can’t be experienced. We’re too busy being religious to be faithful.
Too fine a grind leads us into thinking God’s love is unconditional.
We muck up the filter with the fine details. Jesus called this straining a gnat but swallowing a camel.
The amount of time the water spends trying to pass through the beans determines the quality of the coffee. We get hung up on our own rules and regulations and the Spirit says, “I’m trying to get something done here. Lighten up, would ya?”
So, what is the perfect grind? How do we take the time and make the effort so that the end result of being in the life of the Spirit produces something that “permeates all things?” It’s right there on the side of the can.
Follow the Instructions
Use clean water. This one is a given in this analogy.
Grind your beans accordingly. Not too coarse and not too fine. Forgive the offenses that bog us down as a church. Open up to the presence and spend time in it. Join a Bible study. Ask questions. Volunteer for Vacation Bible School or simply pray more. The water will pour through and take in the flavor on its way. It will pour quietly into the pot and fill the house with an aroma that says, “Welcome.”
The last instruction on most coffee-maker brochures is one word: Enjoy!
And for our purposes here, I’m going to add one more instruction.
Share your experience, your time, your story. This life in the Spirit is visible. People will see you and ask about it. Invite them to coffee.
Let us Brew…uh…I mean, Pray.
Join me in the hymn. Yes, this is mildly blasphemous, or rather blasphemy light roast, but often the coffee hour is as important as the worship service, so just roll with it.
Coffee, coffee, coffee Lord God almighty Early in the mornings Our songs shall rise to thee Cherubim and Seraphim Round thy frothy head flit merrily Caffeinated and anticipated With artificial energy Coffee, coffee, coffee All the saints adore thee Wrapping round thy cardboard crown Burn not our fingers in third degree Coffee, coffee, coffee Though thy stores seem bourgeoisie Tall, Grande, Venti Blessed Trinity
Steve Case is a 30+ year youth ministry veteran. He’s written books reimagining the words of a 17th Century monk as well as three books of biblical Dad-jokes. His latest book is called F**k Death. It’s a hard-core guide to grieving for those who are sick of pity and condolences.
During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: Sept 12 to June 5), we provide a free resource download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download a free activity “Hand Washing” from our intergenerational worship product Living the Word: Cross+Gen Worship (NL) though this can be used in any intergenerational faith formation setting