Describe the perfect cup of coffee…
This was the simple invitation I gave to a barista at one of my favorite cafés – Folio Café at CMU. It was in preparation for a presentation on the theme of perfection in the book of James for my class – James & The Sermon on the Mount.
The bait was set and the barista bit hard!
He launched into an elaborate description of a complex web of relationships; “It starts with the bean and the soil type…” “also the farmer and the land play a role”, “the harvest”, “timing of roasting”, “the art of roasting”, “distribution”, “the water used in brewing” and “tasting techniques…”. It was amazing how much joy was expressed by this barista in just describing what it takes to brew the perfect cup.
Now for verses:
My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
You may ask “where is the word perfect?” In short – it’s there in the Greek and the NRSV does a good job translating it to “mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”
My sabbatical had many great moments of delight and joy (and gifts). However, right in the middle I found myself deeply moved by these verses as I contemplated my own life and situation – whether home life, church, ministry. I found myself becoming reoriented to how I viewed my daily challenges of parenting, personal conflict and difficulties that seem to be ever present – internally or externally.
Can I joyfully accept these realities or limits as joyful places of transformation, part of the ongoing maturing process of my faith?
I know I run on a thin line when I state this, but it would seem that our current western cultural response to difficulties is often marked by blame, accusations and fierce rallies of personal injustice. I am not trying to excuse acts of injustice, nor am I suggesting an ignorant “finger in my ears” on suffering. What I am saying is that there is a gift for us in framing trials as an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to bring about the “perfection” of faith.
Faith that is mature, whole, complete, lacking nothing.
In my re-entry to the fullness of ministry life, I have heard stories of the incredible provision, gift and generosity of God.
I have also heard of very difficult, challenging situations that continue to bring pain, suffering and confusion.
What I am hearing from God these days is to sit in these verses from James… and to ask for wisdom as James continues in verses 5 and following.
Please pray with me. That God will bring about maturity in me, my family and the ministry. That the giver of all perfect gifts will also grant wisdom.
If you want to hear more about this and other stories… give me a shout!
Together we can enjoy a PERFECT cup of coffee!