This excerpt is from the sermon on Thanksgiving Sunday, which was also the final week for us of Creation Time, as we explored Creation and the City. The scripture readings were Isaiah 65:17-25, Psalm 126, and Matthew 6:25-33.
I hope many of you are familiar with Coffee Houses – not the 18th century phenomenon after the introduction of Coffee to Europe, where the intelligentsia gathered to talk about art and politics (although that is interesting too), but the 20th and 21st century version: a gathering in a home or hall, often with coffee, tea, and treats, and an open mic. People perform songs, tell jokes or stories, play an instrument, or start a sing-a-long. Anyone with the courage to step forward is given a voice, the audience listens, claps, and says encouraging words when people return to their seats. It is a place of warmth and welcome. You could say that for that space of time, it is a community, one intentionally formed, with the community members in a variety of roles – even shifting between roles.
. . . Isaiah gives us a vision of what is possible, and image from that context of a new creation, what could happen – will happen. In our context today, what would our vision of the future look like? If we were thinking big, there might be all kinds of things we might say: a concerted effort and great personal sacrifice that brings an end to climate change, restoration of ecosystems, and end to racial prejudice and economic injustice, world peace. When it is that big, though, it is true, but can begin to sound like beauty pageant responses. What would this vision look like, if we pulled in concrete images, thought a little smaller, so that the details represent something much larger? Like Isaiah, where wolf, lion and lamb represent so much more, the entire order that we think is the way things are.
Let’s try returning to that image of the coffee house? An intentional gathering, people with diverse talents. Some might be natural performers, others shaking with nerves, but all encouraged and supported. Those who share their talents and those who listen and support equally necessary. Food and community interwoven in sharing and celebration. Of course, this is idealized – just like Isaiah’s image, but it is also true, it is also something happening now.
The image of the Coffee House is one that resonated with several people in the congregation. Someone pointed out to me following the service another way that this image opens up, as we look at the justice implications of coffee. Where did that coffee come from? Was it fair trade? Coffee and other imported products both remind us of our interconnectedness and also the ways the call to justice infuses even the every day aspects of our lives. Our thanksgiving, too, cannot be based simply on what we have (food, a place to sleep, a new gadget, or anything else), but about being able to be a part of something bigger – our place in community, our connection to the world.