By Rev Keith Turman
perkatory (pur kah tawr ee) n. the anguished, prolonged period spent waiting for a fresh pot of coffee to be ready.
When he realized my love for the sacred bean, Charlie Kirby offered to educate me on the all-important matter. We stood by the stove in the church kitchen watching for the water to boil. Charlie said, “If you want a perfect cup of coffee, you can’t rush it. You’ve got to invest a bit of time, you’ve got to be patient, and you’ve got to pay attention to the details.” He uses an old-timey percolator made of porcelain, the best Arabica beans (because they are the best beans), roughly ground, and rinsed with cold water before going into the percolator. The timing is important, so we stood together by the stove, watching for the water to boil. Now this coffee story doesn’t have a completely happy ending. Charlie was disappointed in the results. Something went wrong. Most likely there wasn’t enough water. It was a mistake to attempt a one-cup brew. The master brewer learned that his percolator was too big for just one cup. Which is how it should be. Life is much better when there’s enough perked for a friend.
Our son Ross is studying at Berklee’s Valencia campus this semester. Chan and I figured we’d be bad parents if we didn’t fly over to Spain and make sure he was okay. Exhausted from travel, we slept late our first morning there. The Airbnb we rented had a small, funny looking percolator and what looked to be some good coffee to brew. I figured out the mechanisms on the little coffee pot, but I couldn’t figure out how to work the electric stove. So I said, “Chan, honey, we’re gonna have to wait to have our coffee with Ross.” Chan—curlers in hair, slowly shaking her head—gave me the look.
So I hit the streets of Valencia and found a café. In broken Spanish I asked the barista, “Is it possible to take some coffee to my house?” She gave me the look—the one that’s translated in any language, “Are you from Mars?” She informed me that she didn’t have that kind of cup.
I wonder if it’s a cultural thing. We encountered similar struggles when we lived as missionaries in Lithuania. Like Spain, Lithuania has amazing coffee served in great little coffee shops on just about every street corner. And like Spain, when we asked for a cup to go, the response was always, “We no have.” It’s not that kind of cup. Our friend Jurgita explained that in Lithuania, coffee was to be shared with a friend. And the tiny little coffee shops on every street corner were always crammed full of people. I think about that every time I grab Starbucks in a paper cup and hurry out the door to drink it alone in my truck. The Spaniards and Lithuanians know something that is sometimes easy for me to forget in the rush of things— life is better when we’re together.
Our faith journey is about life together. On the night that Jesus gave himself up for us, he took the cup, gave thanks to God, and gave it to his disciples. He said to them, “Drink from this all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” A new thing was happening. It was a different kind of cup—one that was to be held together—in community. It’s extremely important that on the first Sunday of each month, we share this cup and pray that the Spirit of God will make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world.
The anguished, prolonged period spent waiting for a fresh cup of coffee with a friend is called loneliness. I believe we are called to do something about it. So let’s follow Charlie’s example. Invest a little time, invite a friend into the kitchen, and watch for the water to boil. The world will be a better place.