O everlasting God, you revealed your truth to your servant Phillips Brooks, and so formed and molded his mind and heart that he was able to mediate that truth with grace and power: Grant, we pray, that all whom you call to preach the Gospel may steep themselves in your Word, and conform their lives to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Collect for the feast of Phillips Brooks, Bishop of Massachusetts, 1893)
My husband Jordan and I are fortunate to agree on the most important things–religion, politics, and how many coffee beans constitutes a decent cup of coffee. I’m not sure where he developed this sensibility, though, because my in-laws have a disturbingly divergent understanding of hot coffee. Whereas 1-2 tablespoons-per-cup is the norm at our house, and we admit it might be a little excessive, up in the North Dakotan Hylden house, 2 tablespoons is enough for an entire pot. We all joke when we’re up there for holidays, we call it “coffee water” and we speak about experiencing “the idea of coffee” when we partake of the morning brew. To be honest, it’s got less color than my afternoon cuppa Earl Grey.
I think Phillips Brooks is something like the coffee us younger Hyldens drink.
The collect written and prayed to remember this fellow disciple speaks of us being “steeped” in God’s Word, and it is clear from his many sermons which still instruct and inspire today that Phillips Brooks was a stellar example of a life steeped in Scripture, worship, and prayer.
It’s as if God, in the forms of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are the coffee grounds, through which our lives–water–is poured. The most potent brews are those which use lots of finely-ground beans. The water is transformed, it’s hardly recognizable as water anymore, but becomes a different sort of liquid. For one thing, instead of being hydrating water, strong coffee, on the whole, is a dehydrating beverage; steeping in coffee grounds completely reverses the effect that the water has on our bodies. Studying Scripture, praying, and attending worship can have the same powerful result in our lives.
As Episcopalians, we believe that worshiping together is the most powerful sort of brewing to which we can subject ourselves. Do you know Drip Coffee, downtown, or in Five Points? They don’t make pots of coffee from a coffeemaker like we have on our kitchen counters; they grind each serving of beans individually, tap them into a single-serving filter, and use an expert method to slowly pour the hot water over the grounds, so that the water takes on the beans’ aroma, taste, and caffeine in a special and intense way. Episcopalians,and Anglicans throughout the centuries, have believed that worship is that kind of steeping. It’s when we’re together, seeking God as a community, that God is most clearly with us–we need each other to know God best.
To carry the analogy a little further–maybe too far, but here I go!–often, when I go into Drip, I ask them which coffee I should get. Is the Peruvian best? Or does Kenya have a great taste this week? The baristas are quick to explain the differences between the kinds of beans that week–which ones are more chocolatey, or have more fruit in them. In order to know those sorts of things off the top of their heads, the baristas do a lot of tasting and reading and studying of their beans. Phillips Brooks, for one, and many other fellow saints in the history of our church, and today, have spent a lot of time steeping in Scripture, studying, tasting, reading, and meditating on God’s Word–getting to know the God revealed in Scripture through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. By becoming very familiar with the way that God often talks and acts, Bishop Brooks could more easily point out God’s work to his churches, and bring them along in knowing and recognizing and growing with God all the more.
When we show up to worship, if we’ve been reading, studying, and praying Scripture, we’re much more attuned to God’s voice, and we can hear in our hearts what God wants to say much more clearly. May we hide God’s Word in our hearts through study and prayer, that we may become ever more deeply steeped in the particular coffee grounds which are the only living and almighty God. Amen.
Do you think there’s a cautionary tale to be found in the analogy when you consider multiple uses of the same grounds can create increasingly weaker coffee? Something maybe like when we don’t change up our worship practices, or words of prayer, they can become stagnant and hold less meaning? Just a thought to take a great analogy one step further.
PS-I’m with you on the need for stronger coffee!!
Brianna–That has certainly been true in the lives of my friends and family. The reverse has been true for me, though; as I’ve begun praying the same prayers over the last 5 years, the words/phrases/services mean more and more to me–of course part of that process has been supplementing with lots of Scripture and (extemporaneous, contemplative, etc) prayer, which has revealed more meanings to the same (BCP) prayers, increasing their depth and complexity.
Further, I hope that more Jesus doesn’t have a drying-out effect–as stronger coffee does with our bodies!