Building the Kingdom of God… One coffee hour at a time

November 18, 2013

For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth.

Now that I’ve been here for over a year now (I can’t quite believe it), it seems to me that things are really going quite well. We’ve had a bit of a whirlwind start to our year, but things are beginning to settle down, and we’re gearing up for our Advent and Christmas celebrations. But even though things are going well, there’s always room for growth, and this morning, as part of our broader conversation about stewardship, I’d like to talk a little bit about a small area of our life together that has not been going as well as it might. I’d like for us to reflect on coffee hour. In some respects this is not a terribly important topic, but if we look at it another way, this is a critical spiritual discipline.

Let me say publicly, that I know that this hasn’t been going well. There has been a great deal of miscommunication and there have been a lot of mistakes. In part, I’ve been trying to stay out of the way. This is the kind of thing that we need to figure out together. I don’t think it would be very helpful for me to jump in and try to solve this issue by shear force of will. Instead, we need to think about this problem as a gift from God, as an opportunity to reflect on how we organize ourselves as a Christian community.

As I do every week, I began to look at the Scriptures appointed for us this morning to see if they had anything to say on the topic. Of course my eye jumped to St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians – “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” That’s applicable to coffee hour right? Well, no. I thought that was a bit harsh, and anyway, that’s not what St. Paul was talking about.

No. I think the right text for us is the passage from Isaiah. “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox… They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.” Coffee hour is a time when we practice building the kingdom of God outside of the walls of this church. This is why we have coffee hour at all. It is true that this is a time for us to greet new comers and visitors, and it shows off our hospitality. The more significant reason is that the time after church is a time when we can simply be together. We are called by God to his table here at the altar, and then we go over to our own table in the parish hall and we learn to live with people who might not otherwise be part of our lives. And hopefully, we learn so that we can go home to our own tables and extend that love and fellowship to more and more people, and those people spread the love of God to still others, and so on, until we all become one. “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox.” Learning to come together as the generous, compassionate people of God at coffee hour is one step in that process. We can learn to see the coffee cup as a sign of the common cup of our salvation in Jesus Christ.

So from this perspective, our time of fellowship is critical for our spiritual development. But it’s also just coffee hour. There are many ways we learn to be Christians, and if this one doesn’t work, then we should find another. God doesn’t need us to bring donuts on Sunday morning to love us.

But let’s look at the nuts and bolts of this. If this is important to us, then as a whole community, we need to share responsibility for this opportunity. We need to make sure that we don’t rely too heavily on a few individuals. And we also need to remember that, sometimes, there are mistakes. There are bumps in the road. Young people are like locusts, and they will eat everything they can put there eyes on. That’s what young people do. Individual’s schedules get confused. Coffee machines come and coffee machines go. All of these things could become stumbling blocks for us. They can be sources of irritation and stress. But they can also be gifts from God. They can be ways for us to refocus on God and on the privilege of serving God’s people.

Because that’s what all of these roles at church are. They are privileges. It is a privilege to read the Word of God to his people. It is a privilege to greet people at the door or to serve at the altar. It certainly is a privilege for me to be standing in this pulpit. This is the good news of the Holy Mountain of God. This is how God will bring about the new heaven and the new earth. We are privileged to share in God’s love. There is always enough of God’s love to go around, and if we see coffee hour as a chance to extend God’s love, then nothing else really matters.

If these words have inspired you to help with coffee hour, there will be a sign up sheet for January going up soon. We are trying to find the right way to organize all of this. If you’ve never done this before, I would encourage you to partner up with someone who has a bit more experience. I assure you, it’s not too difficult. But it can be a truly rewarding experience as well.

– Michael Tuck+

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