It hit me like a shot of espresso. I was standing in church, worshiping along with our band, coffee mug in hand, when I realized what I had done. Or worse, what I hadn’t done. Oh my goodness, I thought to myself. My blog is eight years old. I’ve written 73 times. I've written about family. I’ve written about faith. I’ve written about sports, politics, friendship, education, parenting, even my annoyance with Ken Ham. But I’ve never written a blog about the very thing which sustains life, the thing I crave daily, the blessed assurance that gives rise to my blog’s eponymous moniker.
I immediately prayed that God wouldn’t smite me for ignoring his greatest gift.
So today I write about coffee.
Ah, coffee! The mere word infuses my mind with glowing thoughts and my soul with warm intonations. To sip of the delectable bean, to let the tongue savor its life-giving power, to feel the eyelids open like a newly-aware kitten’s…
Coffee is life.
So while I was sipping my coffee in church on Sunday morning, I had a fleeting thought. What if it’s irreligious to drink coffee while in church? Perhaps we should not allow ourselves this privilege. Perhaps we should stand in solemn reverence and absolve ourselves of every potential distraction. Cell phones, certainly. Crossword puzzles, origami, scratch-offs, model trains, puppies—all banished, and with good reason. But I quickly realized I was being silly. Coffee is not like those things. Coffee is a phylum unto itself. Coffee is to worship what the electric bass is to a rock band. Though subliminal in nature, it’s the absence of coffee that brings distraction, not its presence.
Therefore, drinking coffee is worship.
Some Sundays, I’ve already had my coffee before I enter the auditorium, its power flowing through me like the Holy Spirit (though some days, I confess, the timing and pressure of that flow becomes uncomfortable, if you catch my drift). Other Sundays, I bring a cup with me. It’s in my hand, swaying with the music, making its way onto my tongue between verses, sliding into my synapses and bringing my mind and spirit to life. As I worship, I praise the Lord for creating coffee—which rivals mountains, oceans and forest creatures for its uniqueness and beauty. This rich brown nectar is the embodiment of God’s very character.
Yes, drinking coffee really is worship. It’s unreasonable to think otherwise.
Also, at our church, we have a coffee bar. We call it a coffee bar because we serve coffee there. The weak-kneed may purchase a bottle of soda or water. There might even be a stray tea bag for the wusses among us. But what kind of congregation would we be if we offered a “tea bar?” We are orthodox, for goodness sake.
On the Sundays when I preach, I craft a careful schedule around consumption of coffee and its caffeinating incursion. It’s exquisitely important that the second cup take affect exactly three minutes and twelve seconds into the delivery of the second sermon. This, I’m convinced, is not only for my benefit but for the benefit of the hearers. That’s how the body of Christ works. We are interconnected. My coffee is good for you.
There are, of course, people who don’t drink coffee at all. I call them heathens, infidels, and blasphemers. Our senior pastor doesn’t drink coffee. He drinks tea. Sometimes he drinks chai, which is just a fancy word for “not coffee.” He probably wears fuzzy slippers with a Yankees logo on them, too. But I am a man of grace, so I just repeat this verse from Romans 14 and move on:
3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.
Most non-coffee drinkers are passive resistors. Some are more vocal about their heresy. Oscar Progresso, the protagonist in Mark Helprin’s epic novel, Memoir from Antproof Case, waged a valiant battle against coffee his entire life. Here is his most vociferous rant.
“You see how powerful this wretched substance is? People need it to make a connection with another person, to wake up, to keep awake, to go to sleep, to work, to play, to eat, to embark upon a journey, to disembark from a conveyance.
How many times have I entered a room and been asked, from completely out of the blue, “Would you like some coffee?”
Of course I wouldn’t like some coffee. What makes them think I want coffee? And the waitresses! They say, “Would you like your coffee now?”
Is isn’t my coffee, and how dare they assume that the only question is when I will drink it? Even after I told them no, they would come around again and ask, “Have you changed your mind about coffee?” “Of course I haven’t changed my mind about coffee,” I would say. “I’ll never change my mind about coffee. I’d rather die.”
I had to stop going to restaurants. The sight of people enjoying coffee was so offensive that I stormed out half the time anyway. They drink it with zombie-like expressions that suggest the union of sexual pleasure, religious fervor, and state ceremony.
The users and apologists look at me with wonder, and say, “Ah, but I enjoy it!” Yes, you enjoy it! Heroin addicts enjoy heroin, perverts enjoy their perversions, and Hitler enjoyed invading France. You enjoy it, furthermore, mainly because without it you suffer. The mechanics are similar to those of blackmail and extortion, and the gangster in the piece is a tiny bean that has seized control of half the world. (Copyright 1995, Mark Helprin, Memoir from Antproof Case, Harcourt, Brace & Co, New York, p.152/153)
I would be offended, except that he's right. The tiny bean has seized control of half the world, and we are the better for it.
Coffee is serious business, not only for Starbucks, but for humanity. Remember this rant from Professor Keating (Robin Williams) when introducing himself to his students in the beginning of Dead Poet’s Society?
"We don't drink coffee because it's cute. We drink coffee because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But coffee is what we stay alive for."
Okay, maybe I paraphrased a little. But this is what he meant.
This is why I drink coffee, as I will continue to do, even in church. I’m not quite as primitive as I’d like to be -- I prefer cream and sugar, which some see as a diminishment. And despite my blog title, I only drink two cups a day, occasionally a third if I want to reward myself mid-afternoon. But those two cups are as important to me as quiet time, the Bible, and writing good blogs.
Coffee is life. Coffee is worship. Coffee is God’s elixir for ruling the world.