Taking Communion in Starbucks

I don’t know about the rest of the group, but I was really nervous that first time.  It felt like all eyes in the Starbucks were on us.  As I placed the contents of my bag on the table, every face in the room suddenly belonged to a nonbeliever who would be offended by our actions and become that much more resistant to the Gospel.  But I gulped hard and started into the words anyway, speaking just loudly enough for our table to hear…

On the night he was betrayed, Jesus called his disciples together for one last meal.  It was the time of the Passover, and they gathered in an upper room to observe the ritual together, none of them knowing what lay ahead (except for Jesus himself and the one who would betray him).  There would have been unleavened bread at the table in keeping with the season, and Jesus shocked and confused his followers when he picked up a loaf and broke it, saying, “This is my body, broken for you.  Do this always in remembrance of me.”

I sped through the half-mumbled words as my eyes darted from the faces of our youth down to the bread and then around to the preoccupied figures at other tables who were completely oblivious to the spectacle taking place in the back corner of the coffee shop.  Breaking up the piece of matzah on the plate before me, I hastily went through the next part…

And when the meal was concluded, he lifted up the cup, the cup of blessing that would have been at the table during every Passover, and he said, “This is my blood, the cup of the new covenant, poured out for the forgiveness of sins.  Do this always in remembrance of me.”

I don’t even remember what words I prayed at that point, but as we served one another the bread and juice, a calm filled the room.  No one in the Starbucks really minded the ritual of remembrance taking place in the corner.  A few even looked over and smiled at this group of teenagers taking communion together in a very public space.  My fear had been in vain; it was a good day.

Since that first gathering several months ago, our communion at Starbucks has become a weekly ritual.  Every Thursday around 4:30, a handful of youth and I share communion right there at the Starbucks on Bay to Bay.  Sure, a few people give us confused looks, but it’s a reminder to these youth that Christ is present with them everywhere.  During that five-minute ritual, our regular table becomes holy ground.  Whatever fun or silly thing we’ve been talking about gets put on pause as we turn our attention fully to Christ’s world-remaking sacrifice.  After all, the communion meal serves as a reminder of Jesus’s death for us, which cleanses us of sin and instructs us on how to love.  1 John 3:16 reminds us:

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

For our youth, communion serves as a reminder of this sacrificial love.  Taking it in Starbucks reminds them that this love follows them into every part of their lives.  And maybe, just maybe, someone else in the coffee shop might see what we’re doing and want to learn more.

 

 

“Tea Time with Tom” is a weekly gathering of our youth group where we take communion and no topic of conversation is off limits.  We discuss everything from deep biblical questions to homework assignments to internet memes.  The gathering will be on hiatus during the summer to make room in our schedule for other activities, but I couldn’t help but pause and reflect on it today.

Grace and Peace,

Tom