A sermon by Graham Agnew
There was an ad on TV some time ago for a certain brand of iced coffee in which the boss invites a junior staff member for coffee. The young man immediately panics and begins to image the sort of reasons for the “coffee chat.” He covers a range of scenarios including getting fired, being transferred to North Korea and the need to fake his death! All negative scenarios.
It got me thinking: many people, if invited by Jesus to go for a coffee would probably think the worst. “What mistakes is he going to point out? Where am I going wrong? How can I improve?”
People imagine these things because they believe being a Christian is all about rules and regulations – whereas, at the bottom line it’s about a relationship.
One of the religious bumper stickers around in the 70’s went like this: Jesus is coming and he’s really ticked off!
I remember thinking in negative terms like this when I was asked to have a coffee with my Minister at the tender age of 19. I arrived home from work one evening and my mother said: Mr.Wood wants to speak with you this Sunday.
My immediate thought was what’s he found out? What sin or problem in my life is he going to point out? It turns out all he wanted was to ask me about leading a particular group within the church and I haven’t been out of Christian leadership since.
Sadly if Jesus were to ask “can we go for a coffee?” many people would think: “uh, oh…” and implied in this is, why Jesus would want to have a coffee with me? There are a lot of Christians better than me Lord; you could spend your precious time with people much more in tune with you – much more equipped to do your great work than I am. Why would you want to have a coffee with me?
Needless to say, there are no recorded instances of Jesus asking someone to go for a coffee – but there are accounts of him having personal encounters with people who would have been stunned and surprised by the level of attention He was giving to them.
Their natural reaction would have been: why me?
A few examples: Take the story of Zacchaeus recorded in Luke 19. Not only did He ask why me, everyone looking on…eventually everyone in the town, was asking why him?
“Lord, why waste your time on that guy. We hate him! As a tax collector, working for the Romans, he’s ripping us off big time and we don’t like it.”
Meanwhile, Zacchaeus was wanting to remain as low key as possible, while Jesus was in town, and so he climbed a tree in order to see Jesus.
And what happens? Jesus comes by, stops and says: Can we go for a coffee? (In actual fact he said can I come to your home? The natural response from Zacchaeus would have been: why me?
The second example of someone who may have said why me is the incident involving the woman at the well, recorded in John 4. The first “why me” came even before she had a clue who Jesus was? When Jesus asked her for a drink, she exclaimed: why me? Why are you, as a Jew, asking me, a Samaritan, for some water? You hate us and say we’re unclean – so why pick me?
Her feelings of inadequacy and guilt were further intensified once she discovered Jesus’ true identity.
Then of course, there’s the man at the Bethesda pool, recorded in John 5. The Bible says there was a large crowd on hand that day and everyone was in desperate need.
A mass of humanity, all gathered at the one spot where legend had it, an angel would come on occasions and disturb the water. The first person into the pool would be healed.
Now, the really puzzling thing about this incident is: all the evidence points to only one healing taking place – just one. In fact, verse 13 of chapter 5 actually refers to Jesus “quietly slipping away” – presumably leaving a lot of people saying: hey, wait a minute Jesus, what about us? But leaving one man asking why me?
So here we have three people – all of whom had a close encounter with Jesus Christ and each in their own way asked Him: why me?
In each case, it’s interesting to note how Jesus responds to these people. He’s not negative, critical or judgemental. No, he has a specific message for each and it’s personal, it deals with their particular issue and it’s timely. In each case, it’s the kind of message he would almost certainly give to you and me if we had the chance to sit down quietly, informally and have a cup of coffee with him.
The message to Zacchaeus was essentially: let me give you victory. Zacchaeus, you’ve allowed the sin of greed and indifference to get a tight grip on you; you’re ripping the people off and you don’t care – you’ve become cold and heartless
And, of course, he did come through victoriously. Following his encounter with Jesus Zaccheaus said if I’ve robbed anybody, I will repay them 4 times and on top of that, I’ll give half of everything I have to the poor. This was a major turnaround from a guy who spent most of his life thinking about nobody but himself.
Let’s turn to the woman at the well. Here was a person desperately seeking for love, affirmation and meaning but, as the old song says, she was looking for love in all the wrong places! She had been content with short burst, superficial relationships but had not found the deep, spiritual and emotional satisfaction she craved. Jesus pointed out she’d been married 5 times and the guy she was living with at the time was not her husband.
The message of Jesus to this woman was: let me refresh you.
She had come to draw water and Jesus spoke to her about Living Water – he talked about water that could satisfy her thirst forever.
Finally, the man at the Bethesda pool – unable to move without assistance for 38 years – and, not surprisingly, Jesus’ compassionate word to him was: let me heal you.
But it was more than just physical healing required in this instance. Jesus clearly had identified other issues in the man’s life, leading him to ask that very confronting question: do you want to get well? Are you ready for change? Are you ready to (literally) stand on your own two feet? Are you willing to take the focus off your needs, your problems and start reaching out to others?
Now that’s healing at a very different level…
I began this presentation with the thought of Jesus asking if we’d like to go for coffee. If that were possible I have no idea what he might say to you, but I do know this: if you have even a hint of surprise in your response, even a hint of why would he want to have coffee with me? – here are some of the things I know, on the basis of the Word of God, he would be wanting to convey to you.
He’d want to say: “I can give you victory”. “I can really refresh you”. “I can heal you.”
And, you know, these aren’t one off messages; they form the very basis of our ongoing relationship with God and they’re delivered constantly – not over a cup of coffee, but through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, as we read the Word, as we pray, as we worship and as we do life with fellow believers.
What is the most important word you need to receive from Jesus today? Can you picture him delivering these messages in the context of a close, intimate chat over a coffee (if that were possible)?
How we answer that question is vitally important when it comes to the type of Christianity we experience. It’s either going to be Christianity born out of joy or Christianity dominated by fear.
IF our first thought in response to Jesus asking “can we go for coffee” is one of fear that we’re going to be rebuked, criticized or judged – that’s more than likely how we will treat other people. Whereas, if our response is one of eager anticipation knowing we’re going to experience grace, love, forgiveness and justice, then that, more than likely is how we’ll treat others.
Coffee with me, Jesus? The simple answer: why not!
There’d probably be many move converts to Christianity in the world today if it were possible to go for a coffee with Jesus. In that informal setting we’d be able to ask all our questions and satisfy all our concerns.
Of course that’s not possible, but what is possible is the opportunity to take time out, open the Bible and engage in meaningful prayer and reflection.
Maybe it’s time you had a “coffee with Jesus…”
Father, help us to take time out regularly, to stay in touch with you – the One in whom we live, move and have our very being…