This weekend my husband, Kevin, ran into God at Starbucks. He probably wouldn't put it that way, but that's the way this preacher sees it.
Kevin walked into a Starbucks in a city in another state. It was 6:15am, and there was a group of four conservatively-dressed, middle-aged, white men seated at a table together. The Bibles and study books in front of them immediately gave away the fact that they were a part of an early-morning Christian study group of some sort. Sadly, this God encounter will not come from this group of Christian men.
As Kevin took his place in the short early-morning line, he heard one of the men rather loudly state, "I am an intelligent person. I understand things, complicated things. I know the difference between right and wrong. Homosexuality is wrong. God says it in the Bible."
It took Kevin aback to hear such words spoken so loudly, especially at a Starbucks. At the same moment, it was his turn in line, and the barista looked at him and said, "Are you okay?" Though she hadn't hear the man's pronouncement, she could see in Kevin's face, and probably the lack of color in it, that something had just happened.
Kevin fumbled for words. He even tried to pass it off that everything was fine, but she insisted. "I can tell something is wrong. What is it?"
Kevin shared the experience he had just had, explaining that it is nothing new for LGBTQ folks but that it just caught him off-guard so early in the morning. This young barista responded with a wisdom well beyond her years, "It is not okay that this is nothing new, and you shouldn't have to be 'on guard.' Especially not here. I'm so sorry, and your coffee this morning is going to be on me."
The irony in this true story is rampant. From the aloof, self-righteous Christians to the compassionate care of a young minimum wage employee, this story plays out more like a Jesus story from the Bible than a modern day set of events at an international, corporate chain coffeehouse. All these years later, we still see the same characters: religious leaders and authority figures totally missing the point, leaving outsiders and outcasts to save one another continually with the unconditional love of God.
To be clear, the God-Encounter was not the free cup of coffee. This is not a Western tale of capitalist healing after all. The coffee was simply a kindness, not a God-moment. The God-Encounter was this young girl seeing the disturbance and hurt in Kevin's face, refusing to let it go or brush it off, and then offering the compassionate and Godly care of reminding Kevin that he is good.
This week has been a rough one. The ban on trans people in the military was reinstated by our country's Supreme Court. Federal Employees, including those in our own congregation, have now completed their second pay period without compensation, and in South Carolina, the ability to discriminate against foster parents who are LGBT, Jewish, or other formerly-protected-groups was removed.
Our world needs people who see the distress and hurt in others. Are you paying attention, looking people in the eyes, and asking, "No really, what's wrong?" Will you embody this one humble barista or that other poor carpenter from two millennia ago as you go through your day today? Let's be MCC today. It's as important now as ever.