The Sacrament of Coffee

An open thank-you note to baristas everywhere.

NOTE: I originally wrote this as a thank you letter to the wonderful baristas at the Dallas Baptist University Coffeehouse, where I spend much of my time. I am reprinting a version of it here, with deep gratitude to all those who make and serve coffee or who work in any service industry.

Dear baristas,

I’m writing to thank you for your work in this coffeehouse, but before I do, I want to talk for a moment about sacraments.

If you grew up Baptist, like I did, it can feel strange to talk of sacraments. We have our “ordinances” of baptism and the Lord’s supper — outer symbols of inner change. Not for us the mystic insistence on Christ’s real presence and real grace in these material trappings.

But when we reduce the sacraments to mere symbols, we may fall prey to a larger error: dividing the world into “sacred” and “secular” elements, and missing what Alexander Schmemann called “the sacramental” — or a world “shot through with the presence of God.”

But I’m not writing today to discuss the presence of Christ in a communion cup; I’m writing to argue for His presence in a coffee cup.

Coffee is a sacrament, and you, dear baristas, are ministers of grace.

To view the world as sacramental is to view it as a vehicle for epiphany — a way for God to show Himself and to give of Himself all the time, anywhere, whether in a church pew or at a coffee bar.

And God has shown Himself to me time and again through your work in this Coffeehouse.

I have felt my spirits lift and my mind quicken through God’s good gift of caffeine. A chemical reaction only? Perhaps. But I believe that the Word in whom we live and breathe and have our being speaks through that chemical reaction. He uses that gift to cut through my morning fog and lead me to truth.

I have tasted God’s goodness in a delicious first sip of a just-right cappuccino or a comforting lavender latte. As I’ve savored new and complex flavors, I’ve remembered that every good and perfect gift is from the Father, and that He is good. This small taste of goodness echoes the Truly Good and draws me after it.

I have seen God’s creativity in a beautifully-poured piece of latte art, in a perfectly-pulled shot, in a thoughtfully-crafted new drink recipe. I’ve seen God’s image on display in your creative work, and praised the Creator for the wonder of His work. I’ve been reminded that we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared for us. I believe that God has prepared the good work of good coffee just for you, dear baristas, and you image Him forth beautifully through your quality craftsmanship.

And I have seen God through you in other ways too. I have felt the Father’s love in your smiles, your kind conversation, your hospitality. I have seen Christ’s service in a plate picked up, a water glass refilled, a free sample given. I have felt the Spirit’s comfort in a thoughtful playlist, in a cozy atmosphere, in the exchange of ideas. In too many ways to list, you have been Christ’s hands and feet to me and to all who enter the doors of the coffeehouse.

Coffee is a sacrament, and you are ministers of grace to a broken world, to broken students, to this broken professor. When I walk into the coffeehouse weary, I leave refreshed, as you serve up grace to me day after day, doing your small part to mend our world as Christ works in and through you to do so.

Coffee is a sacrament. Your work here is not secular or separate from your gospel mission. When we take of the bread and drink of the cup we proclaim that Christ died, was buried, and he rose again. And when we give and receive His gift of coffee, we proclaim God’s goodness, His creativity, His daily renewed mercies, and His love.

Thank you for being ministers of God’s grace.

With gratitude and deep affection,
Christine Jones

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