While I am a big fan of Starbucks coffee (preferably the dark roast), I also came across another coffee chain several years ago while taking classes in Chicago. Caribou Coffee has some wonderful coffee, too, and I really like their company slogan: Life is short. Stay awake for it.
Their motivation in using this slogan is to get us to make sure we are sufficiently caffeinated each day. But it’s not a bad slogan for life in general, and for the life of faith in particular. Jesus came proclaiming good news to those around him. He said things like, “The kingdom of God has come near.” And he told stories, parables, that invited folk to reflect on what really matters in the world. He criticized a lot of religious folk, not because they were religious, but because their focus on legalistic boundaries of who is in and who is out kept them from seeing God’s ways. They were asleep to the reality of God’s presence when it was right in front of them. There is a joke that goes around on Sunday morning. Someone says to the preacher of the day, “Oh, you’re preaching. Good. I’ll get a good nap today.” Haha! I’m rolling in the floor of my office☺. But the truth of the matter is that when we gather for worship on Sunday it’s a time for us to wake up to what God has planned for us.
We gather each week to talk about an alternative reality; something Jesus called the kingdom of God. We come to tell the story of God’s way of seeing things, a way that is in contrast with the world around us. In God’s kingdom, for instance:
- All people are seen as persons made in God’s image;
- Prestige comes in serving others not in the accumulation of titles;
- Strength is lived out in vulnerability;
- Prayers are extended not just for those we love easily, but also for our enemies;
- Gifts are not measured in their size but in the level of sacrifice;
- The last are first and the first are last.
In Jesus we have been given insight into a different way of living that includes a commitment to seeing those around us and, by God’s grace, joining in the movement Jesus began to live a life that is characterized by love, self-giving, and concern for all. And yet, sometimes I feel as though I’m asleep to the reality around me. I’m asleep to seeing the ways God is at work in the world today.
Try this. As you travel about in the coming weeks, look for those people and things you don’t often see. Pay attention to the person who is mopping the floor in the grocery store, the woman who is cleaning the restrooms in the university building, the lawn keeper, the trash collector, the sexton.
While I was working at Furman, former president Bill Clinton came to our chapel to speak at a funeral. We were all excited. Secret Service officers came a few days early to make sure the building was secure. The day of the funeral arrived and some of us met him at the back door. He looked at me and said, “Do you have a restroom nearby?” I said, “Yes, Mr. President.”
After the funeral I walked into the chapel and there was Mr. Huff, our eighty-year-old sexton cleaning up after the service. And I had one of those Kingdom-of-God moments. Because while no Secret Service personnel prepared the way for Mr. Huff, God has established a kingdom in Christ that says all persons are, indeed, made in the image of God. All persons are recipients of God’s grace.
I’m so glad I walked back in the building that day. Because I could have missed the lesson. I could have done what I do so often: sleep through the things God is teaching me and forming me to become. Life is short. Stay awake for it. But more importantly, let us stay awake to the ways God is making us into children of the Kingdom of God.