Coffee and Communion

A week or two ago I went to a larger church than I am used to for a special event they were having. It was good and all, and the event itself took place in the lobby where they served coffee. The cafe area was pretty nice and well designed, and it (as always) got me thinking.

Churches offering a coffee bar is pretty normal these days, especially for churches started in the last few decades. Some high church people scoff, some fundamentalists scoff, and some normal people scoff, too. Some people take issue with the idea that we could just be trying to market people in with the unspiritual means of tasty coffee. But for the most part, people like it. And it seems to have some beneficial effects. It makes a place and time where people can come, share drinks, and enjoy each other’s company. It forges a little patch of unity, a small table of community.

This is very similar to what Communion does, or at least is meant to do. Paul says that Communion makes us one body: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one┬ábody, since all of us share the one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:17). The same can be applied to the cup: we all drink the same cup of the blood of Christ, and the washing of His blood makes us all one body.

Now, there are probably many layers to answering the question, “How does Communion make us one body?” But at least one part of it has to do with the fact that Communion is a meal, and meals bind people together socially. I’m sure you can imagine what I mean. People bond over shared food and drink all the time. You go out to eat on a date to get to know each other. You celebrate Thanksgiving together by sharing a turkey and some potatoes and cranberry sauce. Family memories and routines often center around a dinner or breakfast table. You could almost say that family is simply who you eat supper with.

Part of the “power” of the Lord’s Supper to make us into one body is just that: the power of a supper. (This is why, by the way, it should really be celebrated more like a meal whenever the group size makes it possible.) And this power is something it has in common with coffee.

Drinking coffee together is a lot like sharing a meal. And, socially, it works mostly the same way. Coffee dates are as much a thing as dinner dates. Office workers talk as much by the coffee maker as at the lunch table. People make and meet their friends at coffee shops. As we share a drink in common, we share our thoughts, our news, our loves, or even our faith.

A coffee bar in the church foyer, then, can be kind of sacramental. It can be a way that Christ works to create love and unity among the members of His body. An outsider, walking into a church for the first time, might catch a glimpse of the fellowship which we share in our Savior who brought us together in the first place. For those looking for community (and who isn’t?), the coffee bar can be a sign that God has provided just that in His Church.

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To be like Jesus, be despised but not despicable.

“Jesus said we would be despised.”

I hear Christians say this all the time. Usually it comes in the context of offering controversial opinions based on the Bible or Christian tradition. And technically they are correct. Jesus did tell the disciples that His followers would be ridiculed, persecuted, and hated for His sake.

But… This isn’t all there is to say about the matter. Too often people use this as an excuse to present biblical teachings in an inappropriate, rude, or even wicked way. (And sometimes they’re not even biblical teachings so much as cheap caricatures of them.) Doing this is unacceptable. Truth can and sometimes must be offensive, but its offense must never be wielded as a club.

Being clear: rudeness is not Christian. Name-calling and slandering are not Christian. Treating people as though they did near bear the image of Christ is not Christian. And Jesus did not tell us to do any of those things. Truth can be very offensive, but this offense can be made worse or better by how, when, why, and where we preach it.

Jesus promised that we would be despised, but He only blessed those who are despised for His sake. When we misbehave, acting arrogantly or abusively in our truth-telling, we will be despised not for Christ’s sake but for our own. In fact, adding rudeness to truth turns the truth into a kind of lie, since it gives off the signal that the God—who is Himself truth—approves of our behavior.

So in the end this really is just a rant against abusing the truth as a club with which to be jerks to other people. We can be despised for our message and for our love and still be like Jesus. But when we are despised for being obnoxious, inflammatory, cruel, or disrespectful, our own Scriptures condemn us. For we are called to be witnesses characterized by love, compassion, gentleness, a good reputation, and blamelessness before the world, in peace as much as it depends on us. To adapt from Jesus:

“What good is it if you speak the truth but harass and disrespect others? Do not even the most rabid SJWs do the same? And if you preach the offense of the cross but add to it your own offense, are you not a stumbling block to your hearers? Therefore be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

P.S. This Babylon Bee article ties in perfectly with my point here.