God and Coffee

Ethan Moore, Edwards, CO

I love coffee.  More accurately, I have a dependent relationship with coffee.  If you saw the guy passing the finish line of the Gypsum Daze 5k a few years back, 52 oz. ‘Bubbamug’ in hand, that was me.  Like I said, it’s dependency, pure and simple.

You can experience coffee in a thousand different ways, and places.  There’s your kitchen, your favorite restaurant, the myriad choices of coffee houses, and of course, your friendly local gas station.  Once inside, you can lounge on a couch, perch on a barstool, sit at a table, stand at a counter, you name it. All the while surrounded by coffee merchandise representing the highest and best of American marketing genius.  Tall, grande, venti?  Does it come in a barrel? Of course, you have your bazillion varieties of formulas, additives, and brewing methods, as in “I’ll have a largefullfatquadshotsuperhotextrapumpmochacarameldarkroastlattee. With room.  Hold the whip.”  But I digress.

My point is that at some point the trappings surrounding coffee can distract us from the essence of the bean.  I mean, if you strip away all the detail, you are left with a steaming cup of caffeinated goodness.  Be it in a paper cup or a china demitasse, it’s all about the coffee itself, and it is GOOD.

Let me paint a picture. You have your own version, at least if you are a coffee person.  It’s the third day of black-powder season a few miles above Deep Lake up in the Flat-Tops.  If you’ve never done the drive-up Coffee Pot road (I love that name), you’re missing out.  Anyway, after 30 minutes of trying to mentally will my friend, Greg, to get up and start the stove, I finally drag myself out of the tent and get the coffee started in my old macgyver’d camp percolator.  After a few minutes, it happens. As the sun breaks upon the frost of the surrounding trees, Greg pours the elixir into the camp mug held in my freezing hands. With the steam rising in front of my eyes, the warmth moves from my hands to my lips as I anticipate the coming bliss. For me, this is the essence of coffee.  After a few minutes of silence, Greg looks up from his cup and asks “how can so much joy come from something so simple?”

My name is Ethan Moore, and I’m the pastor of Trinity Church in the Vail Valley.  I write a column in the local paper entitled “God and Coffee,” through which I seek to share the joy that comes from something ultimately simple.  But it’s not coffee.  It is the thing in life I am far more dependent upon, and that is faith in Jesus Christ.  Like that cup of coffee you might be holding, there are uncountable varieties, settings, and trappings that so often surround this thing called Christianity.  What if we could strip away the trappings and baggage of religion and Christian culture that too often obscure what is most important? At least for me, this isn’t about religion at all.  It’s about Jesus himself, and the essential claim that He is God, and He is good. As my friend Greg asked, “How can so much joy come from something so simple?”  So, let’s take a first step.

You may object to my assertion that faith in Christ is simple.  If you’re talking about the expanse of Christian religious culture, I completely agree.  But I’m not talking about Christian culture, I’m talking about faith in Jesus, and these aren’t always the same.

I’ll agree that saying faith in Christ is ‘simple’ is, well, overly simple.  The same is true with coffee.  The simple joy of hot java is possible because of the complex work of roasting a coffee bean.  In a beautiful example of human ingenuity, the art of coffee roasting involves craftsmanship developed over centuries.  Generations of tradition have led to that triple shot masterpiece you’re savoring right now.  And yet, underneath it all, there stands a handful of essential principles- I’ll call it coffee truth- from which all those years of development pour.

At the risk of metaphorical over-brewing, lets apply this to the question of faith in Christ. Without question, historic and cultural Christianity is complicated. If you work to peel back all those layers however, what starts to emerge is a core of essential Biblical truth claims that lie at the heart of the New Testament.  A few examples are the literal Resurrection of Jesus, the reality of sin, the gift of forgiveness, Grace, and the fundamental assertion that God is Love. These all are summed up in the famous Bible verse John 3:16, “for God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

That may sound simple, but it raises some very important questions.  I would love to talk with you about any of them (over coffee, of course, pick your venue), but let’s address just one right now. What does Jesus mean by ‘perish?’ Is this about the consequences of sin?  Why does this idea of sin cause me to need Jesus? What is sin that it should be a concern for me?  And herein lies the critical Biblical reality so many miss.  This underlying ‘coffee truth’ is that at its core, sin isn’t a wrong moral choice between good and evil.  I don’t need Jesus to save me from perishing just because I choose wrong over right… it’s much simpler than that.

If you carefully read the beginning of Genesis chapter three, you will find that when Adam and Eve ate that apple, they didn’t yet know the difference between good and evil.  This is crucial.  At the point of ‘original sin’, the choice wasn’t moral wrong over moral right.  There wasn’t even any concept of wrong and right.  Rather, the choice was to trust themselves rather than God. To put themselves in control, rather than allowing God to be in control.  That my friend, is the essence of sin, and we all do it.

We fight so bitterly over questions of morality.  But a Biblical world view asserts that sin is not a question of who is right, but who is God.  When Adam and Eve ate that apple, they chose self-dependence over God dependence, and humanity appointed itself its own moral authority rather than trusting God’s authority.  In this sense all our moral bickering is a massive adventure in missing the point, because our greatest need is not moral superiority, it is God Himself.  In the Cross we see God’s provision for that broken relationship to be restored, through the forgiveness, freedom, hope, and new life received by faith in Jesus Christ and His resurrection.  It’s a story that’s been brewing all of human history, and yes, it’s that simple.  Just like this cup of coffee.