What can I get started for you?

Hard Knock LifeI don’t go to Starbucks often, but when I do, it’s with a purpose — something involving small amounts of caffeine.  It’s not the place I typically go to get divine encouragement.

But thankfully, God can meet us anywhere.

Recently, on a Sunday morning, I stopped at a Starbucks on my way to the church where I was preaching that morning; the senior pastor, a friend of mine, was on vacation.  He was in the midst of a sermon series inspired by the major movie releases of the Christmas season, and asked me to give a message based on the musical Annie, and particularly the old standard, “It’s the Hard-Knock Life.”  It was the first Sunday of 2015, and for many of the members of his congregation, 2014 had been a tough year.  Could I please bring a hopeful message?

I confess to being a little skeptical of the idea at first, but as the sermon began to come together I grew more and more enthusiastic.  That Sunday, I had a 50-minute drive to get to the church.  I spent the time reviewing the message in my head and asking for God’s blessing (and oh, yes, paying attention to the road).  I had just enough time to make a quick stop at Starbucks before arriving at the church for a microphone check.

As I took my chai to the counter for a couple of packets of sugar, I noticed the little display of cards where Starbucks gives away free iTunes music downloads; the songs change every week.  My eyes widened as the realization sunk in: that week’s free download was It’s the Hard-Knock Life.

I wanted to grab somebody by the collar and say, “Hey, look at this!  I’m preaching on this in about an hour.”  But I controlled myself.

After all, people probably would have thought I was just over-caffeinated.

At Starbucks, I’m used to being greeted by friendly baristas saying, “What can I get started for you?”  That Sunday, it was as if God had said it, reminding me that it was his word I was going to preach, not mine.

(I’ll say more about the message itself in upcoming posts.)